SING JOYFULLY – THE ANGELS DO

A few years ago I had a question asked of me that I have never had asked me before or since! It was a good question to ask, it being the Christmas season. The question was, “Does the Bible say that angels sing?”  The person asking me the question was under the impression angels sing, but someone had told them there is no place in the Bible where it says angels sing. Must we abandon our singing of, “Hark The Herald Aangels-singingjpgngels Sing”?!?!

I think there is Biblical evidence that angels do sing. One truth is for sure, the Bible does not say they don’t sing!

Job 38:7 seems to clearly indicate that the angels sang at the creation of the world. “The Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said…’Who marked off its dimensions?…who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angles shouted for joy?’” (Job 38:1-7).   In this passage the words “morning stars” is another term for angels and is an example of Hebrew parallelism, where the second line of Hebrew poetry repeats the same idea as the first line in different words yet they have the same meaning. In other words, the “morning stars” (angels) sang and shouted for joy at creation.

Whether angels sang or not was never a question with the Jews. Found in Jewish tradition is the belief that in order for angelic songs of praise and worship to be heard before the throne of God at all times the angels sang in shifts.  In the Midrash, which is a collection of Jewish teachings as found in the Torah, is recorded that when Moses spent his forty days with God that he knew what time it was by the angels changing singing shifts.

When it comes to the Christmas story it reads, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2:13-14). Some will point out that the word “saying” is used not “singing.” However, to focus only on the word “saying” is too narrow of a focus. It also says the “heavenly host” (angels) were “praising God.” Doesn’t praise imply singing as well? Just what is praise? Praise according the dictionary is “the offering of grateful homage in word or song, as an act of worship, a hymn of praise to God.”

The word praise points us to singing. Praising the Lord and singing are inexorably connected. Praising the Lord on such a joyous occasion as the birth of Christ how could such praise not lead to singing? The announcement of Christ’s birth was not sterile and mechanical. It would be unimaginable to think the angels didn’t sing at the birth of our Savior.  It would be unimaginable to think that whatever the angles had to “say” their praise naturally flowed into in joyous singing.  To say otherwise is to rob the Christmas story of its wonder, joy, and heavenly excitement.

The eloquent British preacher, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), in a Christmas sermon entitled The First Christmas Carol, preached on December 20, 1857, said of the angels, “They sang the story out, for they could not stay to tell it in heavy prose. They sang, ‘Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.’ Methinks they sang it with gladness in their eyes; with their hearts burning with love, and with breasts as full of joy as if the good news to man had been good news to themselves.”    To Spurgeon’s words I say, “Amen.”

The angels sang at creation and at Christ’s birth, and we find angels singing in the book of Revelation. Throughout Revelation chapters four and five are filled with reference to “angels,” “living creatures,” “the four beasts,” “twenty-four elders,” and “every creature which is in heaven” (5:13), worshiping, saying, singing, and praising He who sits on the throne. It is obvious the terms are used interchangeably to speak of singing as the meaning, not just speaking. Revelation 5:8-10  reads that the four beasts and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Christ), “having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints, and they sung a new song, saying….”

While the four beasts and twenty-four angels were singing the next verse says the angels joined in with them. When speaking of the angels, Revelation 5:11-12  declares, “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.’”  While the term “saying” is used, it is most clear the terms sung (v. 10) and saying (vs.10-11) are used synonymously as, again, verse 9 reads, “and they sung a new song, saying…” With chapters four and five of Revelation bathed in song, praise and worship, it is rather obvious that singing is implied and is the meaning, not just speaking.

Do angels sing? I think the answer is obvious. God has created “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth” (Rev. 5:13), with an inner propensity for singing and exhorts us to sing and make melody in our hearts to Him (Eph. 5:19). At Christmas time if you listen closely you can hear angels singing all around us of the Good News that a Savior has come to dwell with us.

This Christmas let us lift our voices in song with the chorus of angels who on that first Christmas night sang joyfully of our Savior’s birth. This Christmas let us raise our voices in praise and joyful song for our great God who came to walk amongst us. As we sing of the Christmas story we continue that crescendo of praise heard on that first Christmas night and that has continued to echo down through the ages.  Sing joyfully. The angels do.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

I AM THANKFUL I LIVE IN SURRY COUNTY

I am thankful I live in Surry County, North Carolina. The population is a little over 72,000. Much of the county is covered with gently rolling hills and valleys.  Located in the Appalachian Mountain region of western North Carolina,  the wthankrulestern third of the county lies within the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and, as well, found within the county is the western end of the Sauratown Mountain range.  The mountainous and rolling terrain, coupled with the many rivers and streams that flow throughout the county, can make for breathtaking scenery.

As beautiful as the scenery is throughout the county, that is not the main reason I am thankful I live in Surry County. When I watch the news and see all the unrest taking place in many parts of the nation because of disagreements over an election, I am thankful I live in a county, that while people may not always agree on politics, and even religion, they still remain on speaking terms with their neighbor. They still throw up a hand and wave when you drive by.  They are able to put differences aside to aid a neighbor in need.

While I have friends that voted different than I did, neither of us have organized a protest march, looted, trashed a car or burned down a building. It is wonderful to live in a county where people are still friendly to one another even though they may not all embrace the same political ideology. It is good to live in a place where people are still civil, considerate, courteous, respectful, and agree to disagree without harming their neighbors over the outcome of an election. It is  good to live in a place where people know how to move on with their lives. You see, people in Surry County have bigger issues to contend with  than who won or lost an election. Many are too busy trying to make ends meet, feeding their family, paying their bills to worry about marching in the streets over petty politics.

Some who live in metropolitan or urban areas may consider those who live in counties like Surry County, to be a bucolic area where people enjoy riding four-wheelers in the mud, hunting, driving pick-up trucks with a rifle hanging on a gun rack attached to the rear glass, having every once in awhile to dodge a cow in the road, and looking for a place to pass a tractor while driving on a country road. Yes, people in Surry County have a southern accent and still consider using the word “ain’t” to be proper English. Of course such people are stereotyped as being unsophisticated, uneducated, and back-woodsy. I believe the news media calls us Rednecks.

And of course, these same “Rednecks” grab their KJV Bibles and rush off to church on Sunday mornings to worship with those who they may disagree with on politics. While at church those same people who disagree on various issues, shake one another’s hands, hug one another, asking how the others family is doing, sit beside one another and sing hymns, pray together, laugh and cry together, and before departing from one another say, “If you need me for anything let me know.”  And they mean it, too.

Surry County is place that proves you can disagree with people and still be friends, that you can disagree and still be civil, you can disagree and still respect one another, you can disagree and still lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need. You see, you don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to be their friend. You don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to be kind and respectful. You don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to treat them like a Christian ought to treat others. You just have to follow the words of Jesus, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

I am most thankful to live in Surry County where it seems the people I encounter throughout the county, either consciously or unconsciously, live by the Golden Rule. Just as the rolling hills are part of the county, I have found the Golden Rule the unwritten rule that seems embedded in its citizenry. Those who don’t understand can call us back-woodsy, they can call us Rednecks, but I don’t know of another place I would rather live.

You may not live in Surry County, but if you live in a similar place where people still respect one another regardless of whether they agree or disagree on every issue, then count your blessings and give thanks you live in such a place.

As Thanksgiving approaches I for one am thankful I live in a place like Surry County.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

 

 

 

 

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

As Election Day is fast approaching my head is hurting from listening to all the “experts” give their analysis of who will win. Some “experts” say Hillary has it locked up and Trump has no chance. Other “experts” predict Trump will capture a narrow victory. Who is right?

There is only One who knows with certainty how it will all turn out…the Good Lord. No matter who is elected it will not take the Lord by surprise. He is not sitancientdaysting in the heavens wringing His hands wondering who will win. He will not have to tune-in to FOX News or CNN to see who won. I have one vote and I will exercise my right to cast it. After casting my vote, no matter who wins I am confident and I believe as a Christian that whoever is elected President the Lord in His sovereignty has a divine purpose in it all.

From reading the biblical history of Israel the Lord (1) placed (allowed) leaders in power to use them to give the nation a reprieve to repent from their self-destructive ways resulting in spiritual revival, or (2) He allowed the wayward nation to receive the kind of leader they deserved and placed such leaders in power to use them as instruments to bring about just-judgment upon a society that had become saturated in sin as the result of turning their backs on the Moral Lawgiver. There are occasions judgment upon sin is giving a nation or an individual over to more sin. This is clearly seen in Romans chapter one as Paul declares the Lord at times gives man over to his own self-destructive ways. Such judgment is the inevitable consequence and reaction of God’s holiness to the sin which opposes it.

From a Christian perspective judgment upon sin transcends the purpose of vindictiveness, but vindicates the Lord’s nature of holy-love. The ultimate goal of judgment is for the purpose of the destruction of sin (which is self-destructive) and the establishment of God’s holiness and love wherein is found life and liberty. This is clearly seen in the cross, as there the sin of humanity was dealt with in holy-love. And the march of history is the working out of what was accomplished in Christ upon the cross, as there He dealt with sin, His holiness was satisfied and vindicated, and it was made possible for humanity to experience restored communion with the Creator. The cross ever towers over the wrecks of time as a reminder to a forgetful world that there is a holy God who reigns over all creation and lovingly seeks to bring man back (reconciles) into communion with Him.

The fact that God invaded time in the person of Jesus Christ reveals He not only is involved in history, but that He is Lord of history. The cross of Christ and His subsequent resurrection reveals man cannot thwart the ultimate restorative purposes of God for His creation and His creatures. The book of Daniel clearly teaches that God raises monarchs to the throne and He sinks them as He pleases. History has shown kingdoms come and kingdoms go, but He who is called the Ancient of Days ( Daniel 7:22) not only transcends history but invades history with His presence in Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign in his rule over the final outcome of history, but He does not deny the freedom of man to make his own decisions even to his own destruction. Pharaoh thought he was standing against the Lord and stopping His purpose, but he found out in the end he was simply a pawn in the hands of an all-wise and omnipotent Creator. In spite of Pharaoh’s evil ways they were directed by He who is Lord over history to contribute to the deliverance of the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt. While my desire and prayer is to see this nation avoid being led further away from the Judeo-Christian ethic and sinking deeper into a cesspool of moral self-destruction, I place my trust in a sovereign Lord whose desired ultimate will shall not be thwarted by any person  no matter how powerful or evil they may appear to be. Even though  the Lord often allows nations to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:18), the Lord is above and over history and will have the final say as to its unfolding.

Therein lies the Christian hope that the Lord rules in the affairs of man even when it appears darkness is extinguishing the Light  The Master Chessman is always behind the scenes making moves not always visible to the physical eyes.  If the world is not ruled by a Heavenly Governor, then the affairs of man are left to impersonal laws of relativism…which invariably leads to wholesale materialism and plunges humanity into the darkness and hopelessness of atheism.

So be assured my Christian friend, regardless of who is elected President they will be a vessel in the Hands of a sovereign God who will direct the leader’s ways to bring about the unfolding of His desired purposes. I will tend to my responsibility and vote, and then leave the working out of the results to the One in whom I trust and know holds the past, present and future in His hands.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

A HERO OF THE EVERYDAY MAN

I was filled with sadness when I learned of the death of Arnold Palmer. He was 87 years old. He was one of those figures you thought would live forever. My eyes welled up with tears as I watched news reports informing viewers of his passing. The man was an icon. He was a man who was larger than life. He defined the word “legend.” He was a hero of the everyday man.

My father being an avid golfer, I grew up watching Palmer play golf on TV. My father did not have many heroes, buarnold-palmert Arnold Palmer was one of them. For my father all the world stopped when the King was playing golf. He was the honored guest in our home each weekend.

Palmer  was a man’s man. His passion was contagious. People drew inspiration from his accomplishments. He captivated his fans with his amazing shots. You cheered when he was triumphant and heartbroken when he lost.  He was not only a great golfer, but  he was a great gentleman. Joyous in victory, he was always gracious in defeat.

Back in the mid-1990s when the Senior Tour came to Tanglewood in Winston-Salem I went to watch him play. For some four hours I was part of Arnie‘s Army. There were times that day I came within a few feet of him. I was in awe watching him swing a golf club. I was in awe of him period. I don’t remember what he shot that day. I didn’t care, for I was part of Arnie’s Army. I remember his broad shoulders and massive forearms. He was a Popeye come to life. Oh my how he could crush a drive. He possessed an air of confidence that was mixed with genuine humility. When he made a good shot the crowd would roar and he would acknowledge appreciation to his army with that trademark swashbuckling smile of his and an appreciative nod. I will forever be grateful I got to watch him at least once play golf.

Palmer reflected values and a character that many sport “stars” of today seem to be lacking. Unlike some of the selfish and spoiled-brat  “stars” of today, Palmer realized golf would not be what it was without the fans, and he always sought to gratefully show his appreciation to them. He never lorded his greatness over others but made his fans feel they were responsible for and shared in whatever greatness he might have obtained. His charismatic  personality endeared him to people of all walks of life. He was a man who could dine with queens and presidents, but was more at home with the common man. He never forgot his own humble beginnings, and  identified with those who cheered for him on every swing.

Arnold Palmer transcended golf. His philanthropy was well known, as he gave to many charitable causes without fanfare and never for the sake of notoriety, but for the purpose of helping others who were less fortunate. He earned much and received much, but he, as well, gave much, much more back.  It was said at the death of Julius Caesar, “We shall never see his like again.” That can be said of Arnold Palmer. He most certainly was the King who wore his crown well.

Another hero of the masses has gone to his reward. While those who grew up watching his memorable swing are saddened at his passing, there is thanksgiving in the heart for the privilege of having watched a giant of a man walk amongst us.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

SEEKING ANSWERS IN THE FACE OF EVIL

The nation is in shock once again at another senseless and cowardly act of violence, this time occurring very early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. The horrific evil actions of a madman resulted in the worst mass shooting in USA history. Such acts of maliciousness, and obviously planned out evil leave us in shock and shaking our heads. As well it leaquestions-and-answersves us with questions that cannot be easily answered. What in the name of all that is loving and that is morally responsible would cause someone to commit such a horrific act to fellow human-beings?

While it is true we are reminded once again that evil does exist in the world, a deeper question needs to be asked. What is to be our response when such atrocious acts shake like an earthquake the very foundation of our Christian faith? What is the Christian answer in the face of evil?

I certainly don’t claim to have many answers in the face of such heartbreak, and if anything I have a lot of questions myself. I always do when unspeakable evil takes place. However I would like to offer some reflections from a biblical perspective. In the midst of such awful tragedy the question of “Why” can never be answered and will drive us to spiritual desperation trying to find an answer.. However, when our minds want to ponder “Why” we must turn our attention to the “WHERE” in the midst of our “Whys.” Where are we to turn, not necessarily for answers, but for strength and comfort in the darkness of our unanswerable questions? The answer to that question is found in a divine WHO.

Man was created with the capacity to have a relationship with his Creator, yet when that relationship is neglected man, as well, has the capacity to commit horrific evil. Our capacity to walk with God or walk away from God, can result in men making choices that at times seem to be those of angels and at other times choices that resemble those of devils. The result of our choices can have both individual and societal repercussions for good or evil. Sadly, too often our sinful, selfish, and godless choices and behavior are like harsh winter winds that have no respect for who its cold winds blow upon. What are we to do, where are we to go when the cold winds of evil viciously blow upon our brow?

The foundation of the Christian faith rests upon Jesus Christ in whom God has acted in history when He clothed Himself in our humanity. That a holy God has acted continued in Christ’s cross, His resurrection and His sending us “another Comforter” – the Holy Spirit – to abide with us forever. As man our God has wept through human eyes, as God He a seeks to lift us out of our sin and suffering, rather that suffering  be the result of  our own bad choices or as the result of the evil and violent behavior of others. As Christ wept with Mary and Maratha at the death of their brother, Lazarus, so He weeps with us over the consequences that sin, whether it be ours or someone elses, can bring into our lives.

We must not forget that Jesus Christ bore in his physical body, as he hung on the cross, the very worst evil that mankind could inflict. Yet in the midst of the darkness of the worst of evil which Christ experienced He was victorious, and in His victory He provided for us Light in the midst of our darkness, comfort in the midst of our pain, and hope in the midst of what appears hopelessness and senselessness. He has promised that even in tragedy, He can make all things new.

We must not forget that because of God’s suffering with Christ on the cross, as He tasted the evil and sin of all mankind, and His triumph over it all, we gain the assurance that God can and will be with us in our suffering and pain. God, who in Christ on the cross was the greatest Sufferer of all, is the assurance we will ultimately obtain victory even though tears may temporarily fill our eyes.

P.T. Forsyth has written, “God is able to empathize with all human suffering because He has, in the event of the Cross, experienced the height of suffering…God spared not His own Son from suffering, and in the midst of suffering rose above it; then even in the most dreadful things that man can produce He bids us to follow Him in our sufferings so that His victory might be actualized in us.”

In the midst of our heart-felt sobs and tears, if we listen closely we can hear the comforting voice our Savior saying, “I understand, for I, too, have suffered and am touched with the suffering and pain that touches you.” Our Christ is not indifferent, He is the Chief sufferer and giver, He is one who has paid the greatest price to secure for us atonement and the comfort that God is with us in our suffering. Forsyth says, “On the cross of God’s incomparable suffering is that it provides us with a concrete model of faith to emulate in our times of suffering: that of the crucified Christ.”

We may never logically understand the suffering that touches us and those we love, but we with the conviction of faith understand that what Christ did on the cross He did for us all. On the cross he took our sin, our heartache, our brokenness, our grief, and our questions; and with a holy love that can’t be intellectually grasped but can be experienced, He entered into a realm of suffering that is beyond our comprehension that we might know His abiding presence in every circumstance and situation of our lives.

The message that Christ’s death and resurrection proclaims ever echoes in air — that Christ, by His resurrection, is able to be present in our every situation – both good and bad. Found in the One who overcame death He seeks to help us be overcomers in the “death situations” in our lives.

That Christ lives means we are not alone in our suffering, He is with us. While the world can be cruel, evil, bringing us sorrow, and leave us with many unanswered questions, we must remember that in Christ we find comfort, hope and His presence that enables us to continue on in faith as we wait for that Day when He makes all things new and dries every tear from our eyes.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

REMEMBERING OUR FALLEN HEROES

Memorial Weekend is upon us and Memorial Day is Monday. The meaning of Memorial Day transcends simply gathering with family and friends for a festive cookout or a day when many have off from work. In this politically correct day in wMemorial Dayhich we live the true meaning of Memorial Day is lost to many and, sadly, its meaning is not often taught or fully appreciated. It is a time we pause to remember our fallen heroes.

There are several stories on how Memorial Day actually began. One of the first observances in honoring the war dead occurred in the southern state of Mississippi. On April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi, a group of women were decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in the battle of Shiloh. A grief-stricken mother, after decorating the graves of her two sons who died fighting for the South, walked over to two mounds of dirt at the corner of the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of two Union soldiers. As she respectfully placed the flowers on the barren graves, someone said to her in a rebuking tone, “What are you doing? Those are the graves of Union soldiers.” Responding in a voice filled with compassion and sympathy, the mother softly stated, “I know. I also know that somewhere in the North, a mother or a young wife mourns for them as we do for ours.”

Such a loving act of kindness was one of the seeds that were planted in the soil of a fractured nation that grew into what became known as Memorial Day. In May of 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Decoration Day was observed when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. General John Logan stating, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Each year afterwards more and more states recognized Decoration Day, honoring all those who lost their lives in the Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century Memorial Day ceremonies on May 30 were being held throughout the nation. After WWI the day was expand to honor and remember those who died in all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared by Congress a national holiday, being observed on the last Monday in May.

It is only fitting that on this special day we pause to honor those who have faithfully served our country and the some 1.2 million American service men and women who have died in our nation’s wars. It has been said of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

Because evil seeks to suppress life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom always comes at a price. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter written to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural [nourishment].”

Samuel Adams, a Founding Father who helped draft the Articles of Confederation, stated, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards.”

This country just didn’t happen; it began on July 4, 1776 when 56 brave men signed their names to a document known as the Declaration of Independence pledging together their lives that we might have the United States of America. Let us not forget our Founding Fathers sacrifices and those who have served this great country and those who shed their blood that freedom might still flourish.

While it would be more than wonderful if no more wars were fought, we live in a world where liberty must be defended as long as freedom-hating tyrants exist. As Americans we may not always agree with the wars that we as a nation find ourselves involved in, but we must always rally around those who put their lives on the line to keep us free from tyrannical rulers and those who seek to oppress freedom and liberty. These freedom-defending men and women are the real heroes amongst us.

This Memorial Day as we gather with family for cookouts, as we embark upon family outings, as we enjoy the freedoms we too often take for granted, let us pause and give thanks to the Good Lord for all those who have served and those who have sacrificed so much. As well, let us breathe a silent prayer for those serving on foreign soils that are separated from their families that we might be able to be with ours.

May God Bless (and have mercy upon) the United States of America.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

POSSESSING THE HEART OF A CHAMPION

For over four decades I have had the wondrous privilege to help coach high school distance runners. I have seen all types of runners over the years. Some have committed themselves to being the best they can be, some have given a half-hearted effort,  and some have been social athletes who simply came out because they desired to be with their friends. Regardless of those I have coached, I trust they all have learned to some degree that the principles of commitment and dedication they gained from running will in the future serve them well in other areas of their lives.

JACOB PARKER

JACOB PARKER

Every once in awhile a runner comes along that makes a lasting impression upon me because they exhibit that extra “something” that distinguishes them from others. They possess the heart of a champion. My list of those types of runners is a most exclusive club. As the 2016 track season has come to a close one young man whose name has been added to the list of those who possess the heart of a champion is Elkin’s Jacob Parker. On Friday, May 20, Jacob ended his high school track career by capturing the silver medal in the 2 mile at the NCHSAA 1A State Track Championships. In the four years I have coached him he has been an example of what it means to run with the heart of a champion.

My first encounter with Jacob at the end of his eighth grade year revealed a boldness that I knew would result in him being a great runner. My first words to him were, “I have been watching you run. I have coached a lot of champions over the years and I can make you a champion, too.” His brash response took me by surprise, “Have you had a lot of champions because you are a good coach or because they were talented runners?” I thought to myself, “This kid has got a ‘set’ to say that to me, but I like that brashness. I just have to channel that brashness in the right direction.” My verbal response back to him was, “Well, probably a little bit of both.”

Little did I know I was about to embark upon a journey that was both challenging and most rewarding.

Over the years I have had some hard workers who sought to achieve their best and Jacob quickly moved toward the top of that list.  From day one he exhibited the heart of a champion. He could be stubborn, but most good runners are. However, Jacob’s inner engine and will to achieve was often more powerful than his muscles and his immune system. I at times had to adjust his training to avoid injury because his muscles and connective tissues would rebel if adequate recovery days were not properly  inserted between hard workouts.  Always giving me 100% when he trained and raced, his immune system at times would betray him and sickness would occur. As an example, at the beginning of his junior year he became so weak from a virus that attacked his system, for almost two weeks he could barely walk much less run. If I had been a betting man I would never have believed he would have had a cross country season. But possessing the heart of a champion he battled back to lead the Elkin xc team to capturing the 2014 MVAC Conference Championship and qualifying for the State Championships, and individually earning All-Conference and All-Regional honors, and running an exceptional 16:22 5K by season’s end. Astounding for a kid who only eight weeks before could not walk without assistance. But he has the heart of a champion.

Also, during his junior track season (2015) he battled IT Band Syndrome and there were days he could barely workout. But on meet days he exhibited the heart of a champion and ran with guts and determination that defied explanation. By year’s end he had captured 2 mile titles at  the Surry County Championships, MVAC Championships, Mid-West Regional Championships and earned All-State honors for the second year in a row at the NCHSAA 1A State Championships.

An unselfish runner, this year at the MVAC Championships he sacrificed his individual races to anchor the 4X800 relay in order to help his teammates become conference champions, qualify for regionals and earn all-conference honors. The team was not favored to win or expected to win, but with Jacob running his fastest 800 ever he willed the team to victory. After the race he told me, “I am glad I could help my teammates win.” A typical response from one who possesses the heart of a champion.

Even though throughout his career he battled nagging physical set-backs and various sicknesses, he captured awards and accolades too numerous to list.

At this year’s Midwest Regional Track Championship Jacob found himself in a race that contained the five fastest two-milers in 1A state. Running a determined and superb race, he won running a PR,  breaking the MW Regional record that had stood for 14 years, and posting the fastest time in the state for 1A. It was his third straight Midwest Regional Championship victory.

One race remained…..the NCHSAA 1A State Championships. I always tell those I coach that there are never any guarantees at the state meet and that my job as a coach is to prepare you to be one of the three or four runners who actually has a chance to win, then you line up and race and see what happens.  On Friday, May 20, not only battling fifteen other runners but also a sinus infection, the gun sounded to send the runners off.

Jacob ran with guts and determination, leading the majority of the race. He ran with the heart of a champion. Only in the last 70 yards did he yield the lead to a withering finishing kick by a runner from Thomas Jefferson High (9:47), finishing his high school career in the runner-up spot in 9:49 a new PR and an Elkin High school record.  One fact is certain, he left it all on the track…because he has the heart of a champion.

As can be imagined, one who has the heart of a champion is never satisfied with anything other than first place. As Jacob stood on the awards podium to receive his silver medal I looked past the disappointment etched on his face because he didn’t win gold, and I saw what I had seen for four years…the heart of a champion who has always been a winner in every respect. I could not have been prouder for what he had accomplished and the much “stuff” he had overcome to be standing there.

Running is truly a microcosm of life. You see, winning is not always about capturing the gold but having that heart of a champion who always gives their best and never gives up. One’s attitude and reaction to setbacks that so often occur in sports is an indicator of how one will react to such “stuff” that will without doubt occur in future areas of life. And occur they will. One who displays the heart of a champion in the face of adversity will go far in life and achieve much success.

The heart of a champion never gives up no matter the odds or how difficult things may look. They look to overcome not quit. Jacob teaches us to keep working and be determined in our hearts that no matter the odds we find ourselves facing, with the Lord’s help, we will be successful if we stay “at it.” And staying “at it” is a quality one with the heart of a champion possesses.

I am thankful I have had the privilege to coach someone like Jacob Parker who is a reminder of what can be achieved when one possesses the heart of a champion.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

VALUABLE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER

Sunday is Mother’s Day. If your mother is still living honor her and tell her, “I love you.”  If your mother has passed-on, as mine has, remember her lovingly and contemplate what valuable lessons and truths you learned from her that hasLessons helped shape the person you are today.

My mother was a vibrant and talkative woman who never saw a stranger.  She was an avid reader and loved to pen her thoughts on paper in the form of poetry.  Her laugh was contagious. Her journey on earth spanned 82 years, ending in November 1999. The qualities that made up who she was were taken from her the last two years of her fruitful life by that heartless thief known as Alzheimer’s disease.

As I contemplate the truths I learned from my mother, I would like to share twenty lessons and truths that she sought to instill in me that have helped shape who I am today.

She taught me to be truthful and honest when dealing with others. If one is not truthful it will come back to haunt you because you have to remember what you said; and, worse, you will lose the respect of others.

She taught me to eat my vegetables, especially my green beans, because they are good for you.  I still remember the lecture I got because I said I didn’t like green beans. I can’t eat green beans today without her voice echoing in my ears about how lucky I am to have something to eat and that there are those who have no food at all who would be thankful to eat them!

She taught me to not chew gum in church, school, and the library.  Those were places that demanded my respect.  Now in my sixth decade of life I still can’t bring myself to chew gum in those three places.

She taught me to seek not to be selfish because the world doesn’t revolve around me.  When we think of others we are happier than when we only think of ourselves.

She taught me to try and help someone during the day through an encouraging word, a smile, sharing a laugh, or a kind deed.  You will not only bless someone else but you, as well, will receive a blessing.

She taught me to respectfully stand when the National Anthem was being played.  I am to show respect and admiration for the flag and what it stands for.  People died that the flag might fly, and I am to honor her.  To this day I still get chills every time I hear sung the National Anthem.

She taught me not to be part of the crowd just to be a part of them, but to stand on my convictions even if it means to stand alone.  As a minister I am thankful that lesson was instilled in me, because there are times when standing for the truth I may stand alone.

She taught me to be courteous and polite to others if I expect them to be courteous and polite to me. To say “Please” and “Thank You” and words you can’t use too much.

She taught me to do right because it is the right thing to do. You don’t do right just when someone is watching or because you “feel” like it, you do right because that is what you are suppose to do.

She taught me not to give up when undertaking a task. If I failed she taught me to regroup and keep trying until I succeeded. If you want something out of life it must be earned not handed to you.

She taught me to watch the company I kept because who I hung around would shape who I became. She told me if I hung around skunks I would smell like one. That was good advice when I went off to college in the hippie era and drugs and alcohol were easily accessible.

She taught me to respect others even if I didn’t agree with them, and if I couldn’t to turn and walk away. I have done my best to do that, and, yes, there have been many times I have had to walk away!

She taught me not to spend more than I make. Always save at least a dime out of every dollar. Don’t become a slave to debt by buying things you can’t afford.  That has been good advice I am glad I have heeded through the years.  The government should heed my mother’s advice!!

She taught me to keep up with current events so as to be an intelligent American citizen.  Don’t be an uninformed citizen but one who knows what is going on so you can be part of the solution to make society better.

She taught me to vote. She never told me how to vote, but to intelligently examine each candidate and make a wise decision based upon my moral and biblical convictions. I can still hear her say, “If you don’t vote you have no right to complain.”

She taught me to read. My mother was an avid reader.  She would devour the Reader’s Digest, which was her favorite, but she was widely read.  The vocation I followed in life requires I constantly read, and I enjoy reading history, philosophy, theology, poetry, and anything that will expand my horizons.

She taught me that when disciplining my children it should flow from love not anger.  I tried to remember that, though I could have sworn the discipline I received growing-up did not follow that directive!!

She taught me that if I have problems there is a Higher Power available to help give me strength and help me through life. She believed His strength is available to all if they simply ask Him.

She taught me not to jump to conclusions when someone acted or reacted out of character for what is normal behavior for them.  There could be something going on in their lives unknown to me or others that caused them to respond or act the way they did.  There have been times when this advice has proven wise in dealing with someone.

She taught me if you want to die a righteous death you must live a righteous life.  She taught me that by the example of a life well lived.  While I hope I have many more years to go, I hope I can emulate her example by a life lived in like manner.

Yes, my mother taught me many valuable lessons and truths.  While I am still trying to incorporate them all into my life, I am most thankful I had a mother who sought to instill them in me.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

CHRIST AROSE – WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

HeAroseWhen I was in college, now more years ago than I care to admit, a friend of mine and I were discussing my new found Christian faith. I had not been a Christian long and he asked me a question that has stuck with me for well over forty years. An unbeliever, he asked, “I believe that historically Christ was crucified and arose from the dead, but what difference does it make?” At that time my answer to him was, “If you don’t embrace that truth with all your heart and submit yourself to the One who was raised from the dead, then it makes no difference in your personal life.”

I still abide by the answer that I gave as a nineteen year old, but after almost forty-five years of a relationship with the risen Christ of the cross I can expand upon my initial answer. The historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that only a hardened skeptic or one willingly ignorant of the facts would deny. So, what difference does it make that Christ was crucified and arose from the dead?

For me the Christ event, his death on the cross and resurrection, is the foundation of my confidence in life. How does the Christ event give us confidence in the various areas of our lives?

First, Christ’s death and resurrection gives us confidence in who He was and what He said. The fact that the Lord raised the Christ of the cross from the dead gives us confidence that He was who He said He was, the Son of the living God. The resurrection is God’s approval that Christ was the promised Messiah and Savior. It is hard not to have confidence in One who has been raised from the dead. Buddha, Mohammad, and other religious leaders of the past are still in the grave. Jesus was resurrected by the power of the Father, giving us confidence that He was more than just another religious leader, but He was who He said He was: the Son of God, the Word made flesh among us.

Second, the death and resurrection of Christ gives us confidence that God accepted the work of Christ for our forgiveness and reconciliation (a restored relationship with the Father). A perfect holy God demands perfect holiness in return, which imperfect humanity cannot comply. Christ came to live the holy life that you and I are incapable of living. But that is not all He came to do. Since holiness opposes sin, that which is unholy must be judged. You and I are sinners who cannot satisfy the perfect demands of holiness; therefore, judgment of our sin is our fate for not being able to comply. Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

How can I be assured, how can I have confidence, that Christ fulfilled the perfect holy life which holiness demands, and how can I be sure He fulfilled the demands of judgment for humanity not being able to comply? That God raised Christ from the dead is proof and confirms that Christ’s life and work on the cross was accepted as complete and finished. The resurrection of Christ is God’s authenticating proof that I can have confidence that His life and death on the cross was sufficient for me to have my sins pardoned, to have a relationship with the Father and to someday dwell with Him in heaven.

Third, the death and resurrection of Christ gives us confidence that the Scriptures are true. All through the Book of Acts the Apostles interpreted the Christ-event by the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Over 300 OT prophecies were spoken by the prophets regarding the predicted Messiah. Jesus fulfilled to the letter every prophecy concerning the long awaited Messiah. How do we know He fulfilled them all perfectly? The resurrection is undeniable proof that he perfectly and completely fulfilled the prophecies, giving me confidence that the Scriptures are true. How do I know the Bible is true? I need no other argument than the resurrection light of Christ which reveals the Scriptures are true and can be trusted.

Fourth, the death and resurrection of Christ gives us confidence in the Holy Spirit. After Jesus arose from the dead, those frightened disciples, locked away for fear of suffering the same fate as Jesus, became men of courage and fearlessness. What happened? Christ empowered them with the Holy Spirit. Our resurrected Lord has promised to abide with each of His followers though the Holy Spirit who indwells. We can have confidence in the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives because of the resurrection. His resurrection is the assurance He has given us a heavenly power that will sustain us through life’s trials, temptations, and tests. We can have the utmost confidence in the Holy Spirit because of Christ’s triumphant resurrection.

Fifth, the death and resurrection of Christ gives us confidence in the power of the Gospel Message. And what a message it is – God came and walked amongst us in Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life, willingly died on the cross for the sins of humanity and rose again on the third day. When that message is truly believed and embraced lives are changed. The resurrection gives us confidence that the message is true and that it has the ability to change a life (2 Cor. 5:17). When we read the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts we see how the message of Christ can change a life. That he arose gives us confidence that lives can be transformed when the message of His life, cross and resurrection is proclaimed and embraced.

Sixth, the death and resurrection of Christ gives us confidence when facing death. Death will visit us all eventually. It is appointed unto man once to die. What are we to do? The resurrection of Christ gives me confidence when death knocks on my door. Jesus, who was raised from the dead by the power of His Father, assures us, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Because Jesus overcame death and the grave, by faith in Him, we share in His victory. Christ’s victory was my and your victory. What a glorious truth to penetrate our hearts and souls, that because of His atoning death and resurrection we can have confidence in the face of death.

Yes, it has been well over forty years since my friend asked me, “So Christ was crucified and arose from the dead, what difference does it make?” Oh, what a difference the Christ event makes in the lives of those who believe His message and surrender to His grace and love!! If you have not experienced Christ’s saving power He invites you to come to Him today. All He did He did for you and me that we might know the power of His life in us, that we might live daily in the confidence of His atoning death and resurrection.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

THE CROSS – THE ONLY TRUE MAGNETIC NORTH

CrossLightEaster Week has arrived  and reflection upon the cross of Christ beckons our focus. The cross looms over the wrecks of time as the one eternal plus sign. The longer I live the more the cross becomes burned in my soul. While I will never be able to fully plumb the depths of its divine mystery, I am fully persuaded that the answer to the woes of humanity is found in the Christ of the cross. Our God has acted in the affairs of humanity, providing through His Son on the cross all that man needs for redemption from his sins and the reconciling of man unto his Creator. Nature reveals that there is a Supreme Being; the cross reveals the character of the Being of which nature is a witness. God’s first creation creates in us awe. His second creation of a New Humanity bought in the cross creates in our souls worship. The Light that shines on the Babe of Bethlehem, finds its Source in the cross that awaited Him. When I speak of the event of the cross, I refer to all that surrounds it – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

The guiding light of the Christian faith is found in the loving righteousness of the One who hung upon the atoning cross. Fallen man seeks answers to life anchored in his own selfish whims, yet the atoning cross is the only true magnetic North for humanity. We must ever keep our eyes upon the cross and seek to understand the marvel of its mystery, its practicality for daily living, and the grace found in the holy-love of the Father that ever flows freely from Christ and His redemptive work on our behalf.

The cross must never be stripped from its relation to the holy-love of God and His judgment upon our sin and its atoning power that can deliver us in the midst of our sin. We are not saved and kept by the sentimentality of some mystic ideal, but by the historical Act of God in the Christ of the cross which is the ground of our salvation. Salvation never means escape from the world, but it means God’s coming to earth in Christ to deal with our sins that we might experience fellowship with Him so we can walk uprightly while in this world. When the cross becomes devoid of God’s holy judgment upon our sin and His atoning work in the midst of our sin, then the cross has lost its power to save. The cross is more than a humanistic relic of religion, but it’s the eternal instrument that reconciles sinful man with a Holy God. It was at the cross judgment upon sin and grace met. It was on Calvary’s Hill that Christ in grace offered His perfect life for us, which life we could not live; and it was there, as our Substitute, He took upon Himself the judgment we deserve.

The cross has invaded the historic affairs of humanity with an act of both mercy and judgment. By faith we are connected to this historical Act, an Act which declares us to be righteous as well as empowers us to live in a relationship with the Righteous One. By faith we are placed into a New Humanity anchored in the holy-love of the Father who calls us to walk in newness of life. When one is guided by the Light of the cross there burns within their soul a passion that longs for all humanity to find connection in the universal finished work of Christ to the glory of the Holy Father.

At the cross Christ who knew no sin become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21).  At the cross the Father brought forth  His loving judgment upon our sin wherein lies our victory. The cross is not an instrument just to bless us but to redeem us and to reconcile us to a Holy God. As the cross becomes our compass we strive to live in obedience to the One who was obedient even unto death on that wooden tree. The cross teaches us that love must not be based upon mere human sentimentality, but be based upon biblical righteousness working within the sphere of  grace anchored in the holy-love of the Father.

Christ’s work on the cross was for the purpose of God’s holy-love dealing with our sin and reconciling us unto Himself. As the Christ of the cross becomes the object of our focus we find our lives becoming  in-tune with the One who acted in history. As P.T. Forsyth exclaimed, “From the darkness through the cross into the Light.”   Yes, one is  only a recipient of  God’s amazing grace as one’s heart is awakened to the truth that sin was judged  in the Christ of the cross. It is then the darkness  in our soul is replaced with the Light of His marvelous redemption.

In a day when the humanistic winds of unbelief seeks to devalue the cross, let us uncompromisingly keep our eyes on the Christ of the cross. It is in the crucified Savior where we find humanity’s true magnetic North that amidst the sinking sands of this world will guide our feet to walk on solid ground.

In Christ,

Dr. Dan