MAR 28, 2018 Devotional: “The Legacy of Easter”

There are many thoughts we might have about the season of Easter.  Perhaps, it’s the end of 40 days of Lenten fasting.  What did you give up this year?  Or perhaps, it’s the vision of a stone rolled away, an empty tomb and an angel saying, “He’s not here….He has risen…”.  Or maybe, perhaps, it’s a long walk down a dusty road with a stranger who finally says something you remember….and poof… He’s gone.

All interesting yet positive thoughts, right?

What if I took you down a different path of Easter memories?  What about the betrayal in the garden?  What about the group’s leader who denies any knowledge of the Christ, three times over?  Or the brutal crucification?  Need we say more?

Right or wrong….good or bad, there’s a legacy that comes from the Easter story?  A legacy….you know….something that makes a mark, takes a stand, and postures itself for the future.  That’s my definition.

Here’s another definition I found from a blogger’s quote:

“Legacy is about life and living. It’s about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future.

Where do you think it’s best to plant a young tree: a clearing in an old-growth forest or an open field? Ecologists tell us that a young tree grows better when it’s planted in an area with older trees. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the young tree are able to follow the pathways created by former trees and implant themselves more deeply. Over time, the roots of many trees may actually graft themselves to one another, creating an intricate, interdependent foundation hidden under the ground. In this way, stronger trees share resources with weaker ones so that the whole forest becomes healthier. That’s legacy: an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.”

Susan V. Bosak, Legacy Project

I’ve come to realize over the years that Easter is all of those things I mentioned above, but more importantly it’s the fulfillment that Christ said He was going to do.  For those who followed and listened to His teachings, the Easter resurrection story is about the legacy Jesus set forth from the start of His ministry.

The deck was certainly stacked against any prospects of Jesus laying the groundwork for a legacy, however, especially during those final days.  Pontius Pilate, who served loyally under the Roman Emperor, Tiberius, could find nothing gravely wrong with Jesus that merited the outcomes that would ensure.  Still, the crowds yelled, “Give us Barbarous…” and “Crucify Him….”.  Rome was going to make a statement at Jesus’ expense.  The sign at the base of Christ’s crucification read, “Here is your king….”, a certainly mockery to the Jewish people, reminding them that any rebellion against the Empire would be struck down, and struck down in a bloody, cruel manner.

Disciples scattered.  There was no legacy forming.  No preaching Christ’s word.

They hid in an upper room.  Locked the doors.  Feared for their lives.

No learning from the past.  No living in the present.  And certainly, no building for the future.

But….Christ came (and comes) during the darkest hours.  And when still those doubted, He showed them the physical pains and scars of His earthly disposal.

If we’ve learned nothing more from our Savior’s story, it’s the message that God has plans on a much grander scale than we can ever imagine.  His plans can overcome our short-mindedness of how the story….the legacy….could and would unfold.

Last week, I was fortunate to attend a men’s prayer breakfast where the keynote speaker, Bishop Claude Alexander, energized the gathering of just under 250 men.  Claude right out of the gate started his sermon by talking about the disciples.  Now, as many of you know from earlier messages, I have just recently finished a study following the book, “12 Ordinary Men”, which chronicles the lives of the apostles as twelve “no-bodies” who became “somebodies”.  I looked over my shoulder and smiled at one of my Friday morning fellowship brothers as Claude was sharing a story about Peter and James, two opposites in personalities, but together carried out Christ’s message.

Claude reminded the gathering that all mentions of the apostles in the Bible are made by suggesting at least two or more were working together.  And you know there’s only one place in the Bible where a single apostle is mentioned alone; the story of Judas Iscariot.  Left alone, this Judas neglected his beliefs, and soon betrayed Jesus.  Claude reminded us that “left alone, we can all fall prey to the devil”.

So how was the legacy of Jesus carried out …. and prospered?  Not alone, but in pairs, in groups, and teams of disciples.  In this way, our earthly doubts of the Easter legacy, continue to connect with God’s heavenly promises.

Claude used one more example that will sit with me for a long time.  Redwood trees….. you know, huge enormous 300 foot tall trees with massive trunks?  You might think they have deep, deep root structures.  “Not so fast”, said Bishop Claude.  Instead, these massive trees have shallow roots that barely extend down below six feet in the ground.  So what makes them stand tall in the weathers of life?  Those same roots are interconnected with the roots of other redwood trees around them.  It’s through this interconnections that the trees survive.  It’s the relying on others that the trees remain strong.

This year, as you think about the Easter story, think about how the legacy of Jesus was able to be carried out despite all that could have gone wrong.  Here on earth, it was the faith of a band of brothers, yes…but it continues to be the leaning on one another, the trust in our Father in Heaven, and the interconnectivity of anchored beliefs that has spread Christianity throughout the world.

The Easter story is one of our Savior sacrificing all for our sake.  Remember that it’s also about the legacy carried out by the disciples rather than letting Christ’s efforts slowly die away, one by one.

My prayer this week is that we remain mindful of Christ’s teachings applied in all aspects of our lives, and that we continue to be a part of the chain of His legacy.

Have a blessed Easter.

Amen!

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MAR 28, 2018 WAWA: “Cruising Through Holy Week Run”

Easy-paced run planned for this week.  Distance is approximately 4.5 miles, but we’ll start and finish together as a group.  If there was ever a run for you to join….then this is it……I promise!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center at 5:45 am ready to go.  Temps will be near 50 degrees F in the morning with no chance of rain.  Sunrise is at 7:16 am ET so wear something reflective and/or a headlamp.

Here’s the ROUTE if you’re interested.  And tomorrow’s devotional at the end of our run will be titled the “Legacy of Easter“.

See you in the morning!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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MAR 21, 2018 WAWA: “Running to the Mint”

This week, I’m passing the run lead responsibilities “baton” over to Burt Phillips, who commented earlier that he wanted to run through the Eastover neighborhood again….then he quickly followed up saying, “I have another hill I want to show you…”.  I suspect, the Mint Museum will again be along our route.

So with some trepidation, I’m playing the role of “WAWA follower” tomorrow!

Our distance should be somewhere between 4.5 – 5.0 miles.  We might break into two pace groups as a handful are on the “recovery train” from earlier injuries.

Come join us this week!

Weather will be lower 40’s and a little damp from expected overnight rain.  But skies will be dry by the time we hit the streets.

Gather outside the Cornwell Center at 5:45 am ready to go!

WORKOUT Leader:  Burt Phillips

DEVOTIONAL Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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MAR 14, 2018 WAWA: “Back to the Track”

I looked on the website and saw that we haven’t done an outdoor track workout since last summer!  Can you believe that??

So….outdoor track workout it IS for tomorrow morning!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center, ready to go at 5:45 am!  See you then!

Temps will be a crisp 30 degrees in the morning!  Clear and dry, however.  Good, o’ Canadian spring weather!

Here’s the workout:

-Easy jog from Cornwell Center to AG Middle School track.

Route:

Wellesley Avenue to Roswell Road
Roswell Road all the way to Colony Road
Colony Road past Myers Park High School
Turn right into gate for AG Middle School track just past Selwyn Elementary School
Distance = 1.75 miles

-Main Workout at the track:

Warm Up Set: 1 lap around track at moderate pace

Main Set:  6 laps around track at 5k race pace
-Sprint the straight-aways; jog the curves
-Negative split each straight-away from the previous one
-Participants will sprint a total of 12 straight-aways

Cool Down Set:  1 lap around track at moderate pace
Distance = 2.0 miles

-Easy jog back to the Cornwell Center

Same route as before, only in reverse
Distance = 1.75 miles

TOTAL workout distance = 5.5 miles

WORKOUT leader: Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL leader: Mike Lenhart

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MAR 7, 2018 Devotional: “My Neighbor’s Trash”

My neighbor, Robby, and I have a little game that happens most weeks on Tuesday evening.  It’s called “see who can grab the other’s trash can and take it down to the curb“.  It started out as a simple way that we were being “neighborly”….but eventually turned into a badge of honor.  Robby upped the stakes a few months back when he was taking our container down the driveway and saw another neighbor watching from across the street.

“You won’t believe that Mike pays me $60 a week to take his trash down to the curb,” Robby jokingly said as the across-the-street neighbor did a half-chuckle, wondering if Robby was telling the truth or not.

But all kidding aside, we love our neighbors and I’m confident they’d say the same.

So what got me thinking about neighbors this week?  Well, that’s the meat of this week’s devotional.

Several times a week, I drive along a cut-through street between Queens Road West and Selwyn Avenue.  And by “several times”, I mean literally at least 3-4 times a day.  For the past two weeks I’ve noticed two trash cans sitting out on the curb in front of one of the houses.

Just sitting there…..day after day.

And I wonder every time I drive past that house, “Why haven’t they put the cans back near the house?  Is the family in town?  Do their neighbors…..care….enough….to help out?”

In all honestly, there could be a number of reasons why.  Maybe the family is out of town.  Maybe there’s been a family emergency.  Maybe they’ve just had too much going on to realize the empty cans are out on the street.

I just don’t know.  But am I correct to think that something “neighborly” is not happening just a few blocks away from me?

You know, I’m guilty of ignoring the obvious as well.  There are neighborhoods adjacent and very near to my comforts in Myers Park where things have been left unattended as well.  But I continue to drive by and not offer to be neighborly.

Today’s run was a last minute audible and instead of running towards South Blvd, cutting through the Sedgefield neighborhood, we decided to run through Eastover.  If you’re from Charlotte, you’ll know the difference between Sedgefield and Eastover..but those differences alone were not why we chose a different route.

What if someone had suggested running through Grier Heights today?

“Grier Heights…..”, would have been the outcry.  “What good (routes) could there be in Grier Heights?”

Sound familiar?

Recall from the Gospel of John the following:

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  JOHN 1:43-46

In those days, the town of Nazareth was considered the lowest of the low.  Ironically, Nathanael, who made the bold statement above, was himself from the town of Cana, another small, nothing-great, kind of town.  And aside from the wedding miracle, not much has happened at all in Cana, even today. At least Nazareth was at the cross-roads of commerce, but Cana was really off the beaten path.

But Nazareth gets the bad rap.

So Jesus comes from the town with the least expectations of anything “good” can come from there.  Suppose for a minute that He had come from Jerusalem?  Would things have been any different?

But Jesus came to heal the sick, bring hope to the poor, energize the oppressed, and preach the way to salvation.  And the best way to do this was to come from a place of the lowly in order to confound the wise and powerful.  In the book, “Twelve Ordinary Men“, the author John MacArthur explains, “He even calls people from the most despised locations.  He can also take a flawed person who is blinded by prejudice, and He can change that person into someone used to transform the world.”

Nathanael was transformed….and I know you and I can too.

My prayer this week is that we look for opportunities to be neighborly.  And I don’t just mean taking up your neighbor’s trash can or sweeping their driveway.  Let’s all look for those neighbors who aren’t like us, in our mind, and look for the opportunities to see how alike we really are…

And soon, I promise, to plan a WAWA run route that takes us through Grier Heights….and beyond!

Peace!

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MAR 7, 2018 WAWA: “The Long and Short of Things”

Two run routes planned for this week’s WAWA.  The long route is just under 6 miles and the short one is 4.5 miles.  You choose in the morning!  We’ll start together for the first couple miles before the shorter route folks peel off.

Here are the routes:

LONG ROUTE

SHORT ROUTE

Cool temps in the morning, hovering just above 40 degrees.  Sun comes up at 6:46 am.  Don’t forget daylight savings is this weekend, meaning we’ll definitely be running in the dark for the next few months.

Tomorrow’s devotion is going to focus on “being neighborly”….so in that regard, invite a “neighbor” to join us in the morning!

Gather at the Cornwell Center at 5:45 am, ready to go!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTION Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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MAR 1, 2018 Devotional: “The Preacher from the Dairy Farm”

Lately, I’ve been binge watching a new network I discovered among the countless cable channels that I normally skip over.  The network is called “Destination America”…have you heard of it?  My sensible side says you’re not missing anything if you haven’t tuned in yet.  But, if it’s a rainy afternoon and March Madness hasn’t started yet, then check it out.

The lineup of shows includes titles such as:  UFO’s: Uncovering the Truth, Kindred Spirits, Terror in the Woods, Mountain Monsters, Killing Bigfoot, Paranormal Survivor, and Ghostly Encounters.  Interested yet?

Maybe not.

There’s a world of unexplained stuff that happens in our world….and I’m not sure any of these shows are going to solve them.  But, some of the shows are entertaining, to say the least.

In my family, only my youngest son, Hill, will join me on the couch to watch these scary shows, much to his mom’s uneasiness.  So far, he hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night.  I promise to include him in moderation.

We actually got a good laugh at the story line for Mountain Monsters the other day.  And if I fully understood the story, I’d probably explain it here.  But that’s just not the case.

How do we explain the inexpiable, though?  Part of me thinks that God uses the “head-scratcher” times to draw us closer to Him, as a way to guide us along a path towards “truth”.

Last week, at my men’s fellowship group, I asked the gathering to share their individual thoughts about the passing of Reverend Billy Graham (earlier that week).  The responses ranged from “no impact, really, on my life” to “I became a Christian by watching Billy preach to the masses.”

But the most interesting response came from “Jonathan” who lives on a piece of land in Charlotte that was on or very near to the original dairy farm that Billy Graham grew up on as a child.

Much has been written over the years about Rev. Graham, his life in ministry, and especially the impact he had on varying degrees on several US presidents.  What’s fascinating to me, however, are the stories of his upbringing, his early life on his parent’s farm here in Charlotte.  I read recently that Billy would wake up early in the morning around 3 am and would milk 20 cows on the farm before school.  Then, after school, he would come home and milk another twenty!  Imagine that…..!

His parents were “pious Presbyterians”, according to one author, who led all the Graham children in prayer before every meal and insisted they learn a new Bible verse every day.  This religious rigor appealed to Billy, even at a young age.  And with Charlotte becoming a frequent stopping point for revivals, he became more drawn to the more evangelical style of preaching.  Billy would often practice some of the same preaching styles of those evangelicals in the quiet areas around the farm such as the tool shed, where he’d preach to oil cans and lawnmowers, or paddle down a creek nearby to relay a message of repentance to snakes and alligators.

That’s also where my friend, Jonathan, comes back into this story.  Jon explained to our group that Billy Graham also used to walk out to the cow pastures and practice preaching to the cows gathered in the shade.  And Jonathan said that there are many times when he’s outside at their home where he can feel Rev. Graham’s presence.  Remember earlier that said that Jonathan’s home now resides near (or on) what was formerly the Graham’s family farm!

Do I believe in the Bigfoot stories on the cable network?  Probably not.  But do I believe that God’s presence is alive near my friend, Jonathan’s home?  Absolutely, even it remains largely unexplainable to me!

Maybe Billy Graham said it best when he said:

I’m okay with not knowing all those answers.

Tomorrow, the Reverend Graham will be laid to rest in a private ceremony here in Charlotte.  His life, his story and his Christian faith, are tremendous guide rails for our lives today.  Critics of Reverend Graham will point to some of his beliefs that were considered controversial in the day.  But mostly, Reverend Graham’s life demonstrates his desire to share the gospel ….  and only the gospel.

“I’m just going to preach the Gospel and am not going to get off on all these hot-button issues,” Graham said. “If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting. I’m just promoting the Gospel.”

Some might say these are lessons for today.

My prayer this week is that we take a moment to honor Billy Graham’s legacy of preaching the gospel, the Good News, to the thousands.  Perhaps, like me, you’ll take time to dig a little more into Graham’s life, and see where his lessons can apply to our every day lives.

Well done, faithful servant!

Amen!

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