Second Chances with God

(Editor’s note: this is a transcript of a message given by Dwight Bain during the Easter Sunrise service at Sea World in the Bayside Stadium, April 24, 2011)

I’ve been praying for you and our time together this morning for months, praying that this message would add value to your journey because I believe your life is actually an incredible story, it’s not boring, it’s an adventure, maybe more of an adventure than you want… but I still love a great story and don’t we all love great stories?

Our family loves movie nights when we can fly back in time in a DeLorean with Doc Brown across the time/space continuum to good old 1955. Or visit a Galaxy far, far away a long time ago during Star Wars to hear these famous words… (Heavy Breathing), “Luke, I am your Father.” or Climb the mountains of Middle Earth on a quest toward Mordor with Frodo, Gandalf, Sam, Gimli & Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings” Or hear Peter, one of the sons of Adam, as he raises his sword on the battlefield toward the White Witch and shouts, “For Narnia and for Aslan!”

Now you may be thinking that these are all fictional stories, but there are incredible stories of real life people facing incredible challenges, for instance who can forget the classic scene in Braveheart when William Wallace says, “Men of Scotland, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!” Or to feel the panic of being a passenger on Titanic with Rose and Jack, who went from the front of that mighty ship as “King of the world.” And honestly, hasn’t everyone who has gone on a cruise stood on the front deck and said the same thing, “I’m king of the world!” I even do it at home… “I’m king of the world,” and then Sheila says, “No you’re not, now here, take out the trash.” Well, in a few days Jack wasn’t king of the world, he was shouting “Hold onto my hand Rose, don’t let go of my hand!” How quickly a story can change from better to worse.

Yes, I love great stories, but not all stories start out ‘Happily ever after”, in fact have you ever wondered why some classic Animated Stories don’t like Mom’s?

I mean think about it … have you ever noticed how many mom’s don’t even survive the opening credits in stories like… Cinderella- dead mom. Snow White- dead mom. Little Mermaid- dead mom. Beauty and the Beast – dead mom. Pocahontas- dead mom. Even little Nemo’s mom Coral was eaten at the beginning of the story & Bambi’s mom was shot! It’s almost as if you have to have dysfunctional mother issues to be part of a children’s story. I don’t know about you but I like my mom… which of course means I’ll never be featured in an animated movie. Maybe that’s just my quirky humor…. But I know this… All great stories have common themes… they show a second chance, a new beginning… in fact, let me tell you part of my story that happened right here at Sea World …

You may have noticed that I’m carrying a pair of boots, so “let me tell you about these boots and how I never wore them in Iraq” But before I tell you more about the boots, let me go back several months when Dean O’Neal from Z88.3FM called to ask if I could speak this year… I smiled when I thought of so many connections to Sea World… some good, and some not so good…

You see, I actually auditioned – to be the emcee of the water ski show right here on this stage at Sea World back in 1983. I wasn’t what the show directors were looking for and didn’t get the job so I stayed in graduate school studying to become a Christian Counselor. Sheila and I got officially engaged at a restaurant right here at Sea World! (maybe she should have been worried about getting engaged to a guy at a theme park!) We spent our first night together after our wedding as husband and wife right here at the Renaissance Hotel overlooking Sea World, watching the fireworks and dreaming about our lives together. Oh yes, and I wore these boots for the first time here at Sea World.

These were brand new boots, so I decided to break them in by wearing them on a TFA field trip to Sea World with our son 4 years ago. Sheila said it wasn’t a good idea since the boots would likely be hot and heavy but I wanted to walk in to get them ready for an upcoming trip halfway around the world. She had no idea of what was going to happen on that field trip and neither did I. They say there is no testimony without a test… so let me tell you about the test that our family would experience that day.

You see, I had been asked by the Pentagon to go to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait to work with our troops in the Middle East as a crisis counselor. The trip took a year to plan out with the Department of Defense and I needed a good pair of boots since I was going on the first trip during winter. I thought I had everything planned out to go and help the military, but what I didn’t know is that a lifetime of cholesterol was building up in my arteries, almost completely blocking 4 of them, including the LAD, or “Widow-maker” main artery of the heart.

While on that field trip I had a heart attack here at Sea World… right across this very lake! I remember the paramedics working on me that day as I was on the gurney with my chest on fire and realizing I was dying… and praying “God don’t let it end this way, please don’t let me leave yet.” If I had died that day I would have missed so much! Heidi and Garrett’s graduations, family vacations, holidays together and being right here –with you now. After the heart attack I went through a major depression and felt like such a failure since I couldn’t go and help our troops in the Middle East. I would never fly on a C-130 into what the Army calls the “Sandbox” of Iraq with words of hope or fly from base to base in Afghanistan on a Blackhawk helicopter to speak to soldiers struggling with PTSD, that wasn’t part of the story for me – and never would be. If I had the heart attack on that trip while traveling on a non-pressurized military plane I probably wouldn’t be here today. I had to give up the dream of helping our troops because for months I could hardly function so I felt like I had let those soldiers as well as my country down. I couldn’t work for months and felt like a failure because I couldn’t provide for my family financially and we had massive medical bills that wiped out our savings.

In the middle of those feelings of failure my family doctor, Rick Baxley gave me a prescription (pulling script from pocket), this prescription in fact, which basically said that it wasn’t my job to have to save the world anymore. It was like I got the children’s song backwards… I had the whole world on my shoulders, instead of accepting that God has the whole world in His hands and that he is quite capable of working all things out for His good. You remember the song right? Sing it with me… “He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole wide world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Dr. Rick guided me through the months of rehab to find health again, I’m so grateful for his investment in my life (with accountability to practice daily exercise, reading labels and mostly getting enough sleep to let my heart heal during the months of rehab.)

So many friends and family came alongside during that painful time to bring words of hope; they had no idea how much I treasured their words! Words are powerful, words are meaningful, and the most important words came from God’s voice through scripture. You see, In the Crisis I could better see Christ and His plan for my life. Did you hear that? In the Crisis it was easier to see Christ. My original plan was about helping people, but I was in control, God had a much better plan, because with Him in control I could spend more time as a husband to Sheila as a father to Heidi and Garrett and as a balanced communicator of God’s truth.

Sea World has deep meaning to me because it was on the other side of this very lake that my priorities changed. I learned that projects don’t matter, but people sure do! Work is not more important than seeing the wonder of creation and events for great causes are not as important as relationships. On one side of this lake I felt like I was in control and was working as hard as I could. Now I know that only God is in control and I can rest in His timing. Life is more than work it’s the wonder of one more day, one more day to love and to connect with others. I saw this saying on a bumper sticker once, “Don’t take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” I was taking life way too seriously and it almost killed me. I learned that deep relationship is more important than being busy trying to save the world. I don’t know if you can understand what it’s like to be on the verge of losing everything that matters, but I’ve been there and I can tell you it’s terrifying- as well as wonderful, because I learned to see just how big God is, and how incredibly good He is to faithfully provide for our daily needs. On that side of the lake I knew who God was, but on this side I have come to know Him in a whole new way.

Sea World was also the first day-trip our family went on when I could walk normally again without having to be in a wheelchair, and yes, I cried when I saw the “Believe” show for the first time, since it reminded me about how grateful I was for another chance to be with my family and make one more special memory together right here in this park full of memories- full of stories. Isn’t that what a theme park really is? A place people come to be together as a family and a special place to make positive memories which deepen the story of their lives together.

Because of God’s goodness in giving me a second chance my story isn’t over, in fact it was just beginning. I had to learn the wisdom of what Solomon taught in Proverbs 4:23… “Above all else, guard your heart, for out of your heart will flow your life story.” Maybe your have neglected your heart physically like I did, or worse, maybe you have ignored your heart emotionally and spiritually. These boots were never worn in Iraq because God had a different plan for me. God gave me a second chance at life, so my story didn’t end on the other side of this lake, because God was opening up a new chapter of life, a new beginning.

Some people say their life story feels more like a puzzle than a plan… they just can’t figure it out. My favorite thing is to help people make sense of the pieces, like this big puzzle piece I’m holding. I wish I could sit down with each of you at a Starbucks and just listen to your story, especially if it feels like a puzzle. God has carried me through many crisis events, and now I hold the ladder up for you, that’s what believers do, we help one another out of our pain to find His peace. And you have never met anyone more dedicated to seeing you walk in peace than me, I wake up excited every day looking for more ways to add value to help others. Sometimes it’s in a one on one meeting at a Panera Bread; sometimes it’s posting an inspirational quote on FaceBook or Twitter; sometimes it’s talking with Ellis and Tyler at Z88.3 FM and sometimes God surprises me with unique places to come alongside and add value to someone facing a tough time.

Because I believe that most of us are- Either in a crisis- coming out of a crisis, or buckle up buttercup – because you are headed for a crisis – it’s just a part of life. I also know it’s easier to find Christ… in the middle of a crisis and if you are in a crisis I want you to hang on because your story isn’t over, it’s just beginning. Do this, take a deep breath, let it out… (whoosh). If you can still take a breath, your story isn’t over, God still has a plan for you! That may seem impossible right now… maybe you are facing Incredible hurt and loss? Loneliness and rejection? Maybe you feel scared, broken or insecure? Maybe you are facing a major health challenge? Or dealing with shattered finances after a business failure or foreclosure? You could be silently suffering from a broken relationship? Maybe you are a single parent trying to do it all alone? And in a group this size there are probably a lot of people who are carrying secrets and shame that eat you alive.

Sort of like that scene in one of the Pirate movies when Captain Barbosa says to Elizabeth – “you best start believing in Ghost Stories Miss Turner because you’re in one.” If your story feels like a ghost story or disaster movie of epic proportions then I’ve got good news for you… God taps and picks you to face whatever you are going through today, and I know it’s hard, but I want you to know that you don’t have to face it alone! Like my friend Robbie Hiner used to sing about, “When no one cared about me, if I should live or die, and no one bothered asking why I’d go alone to cry, then I’d turn to see who was coming to join me in the way, and I’d see that it’s my Savior and I’d hear him gently say, lean on me, when you have no strength to stand, and when you feel that you’re going under, just hold tighter to my hand, lean on me, when your heart begins to bleed, ‘cause when you come to the place where I’m all you have, you’ll find I’m all you need.”

God never abandons us in our pain and He never wastes pain. And more pain means that God will give you more grace to manage the pain. I have learned, “You don’t get to pick your cross, but you do get to pick how you will carry it” repeat that with me, “You don’t get to pick your cross, but you do get to pick how you will carry it.” Is your story on track or do you believe you behind on your dreams? Like that scene in the Lion King – when Mufasa says to his son - “Simba – you are more than you have become.” Listen, tough times are what our faith is all about, and tough times aren’t new, Consider Psalm 143 – where King David was distressing about his story, he was in a battle, and I believe many of you are in a battle today, even if you can’t see it - you are at risk, listen to the words of David, who was called a man after God’s own heart…

1 LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. 2 Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. 3 The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. 4 So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. 11 For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. 12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.

Psalms 143 spoke to me, because it talked about a heart being under attack… and when you kill the heart you end the story. Some people have become spiritual ‘zombies’ because of how life has beat them down, they have given up on life, their heart was under attack and they didn’t even know it. David was called a man after God’s own heart during the time of the most intense pain; in the middle of the hurt, his heart grew stronger!

If life has knocked you down, if your story is in a very dark place today, I challenge you to get back up with God, because with God your story goes on and can have a new beginning. God has kept you alive for a reason and God is not mad at you!

Maybe your challenge wasn’t a heart attack, but friend your heart is under attack, even if you can’t see it! Cholesterol builds up slowly, just like discouragement and can build up and ‘kill’ your heart, kill your enthusiasm, kill the joy of your salvation

On the Other side of this lake – a heart attack changed my goals and priorities, now God has taken me back to the same place to open up a whole new chapter of life, a whole new beginning, and to open up that story with you!

I want you to press on because your story isn’t finished yet, that’s what Easter is all about because when life knocks you down to your knees, (kneel), you are in a perfect position to pray.

Easter is God’s greatest love story to rescue mankind. That Jesus Christ, led a perfect life¸ was betrayed by a friend, went through the mockery of a trial and was condemned to die on a cross. He died, he was buried and on Easter Sunday morning he arose to defeat death, which paid the penalty so that you and I could be set free… that’s the greatest story!

Has Easter changed your life? What meaning does this day bring to you?

My most meaningful Easter came 29 years ago today, while on a mission trip to Israel and having the opportunity to sing with a choir at the Garden Tomb on Easter Sunrise morning… to hear the minister shout to the crowds that morning “He is Risen!” & hear back “He is Risen Indeed!”

During the rehearsal time at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem on the Saturday afternoon before Easter I slipped away and actually sat in the empty tomb, and prayed to God since my life wasn’t on track … I had been fired from a job, and was unemployed. I was confused and scared about the future. I remember later that same day as we drove to Caesarea on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. I was feeling so lonely so I slipped away to sit on some rocks by the seashore, thinking about what God would do with my life. I made some decisions by the Med that Easter Sunday… I was feeling like a failure, confused, asking God about a vision for my life. I went from singing by an empty tomb that morning to asking God what do you want me to do that afternoon? And maybe today you’re facing the same question, God what do you want me to do with my life?

Sitting by myself at the water’s edge I felt God’s presence and made some life changing decisions. I decided to come home and marry my best friend, Sheila… and then since I was unemployed I had time to go to graduate school… isn’t that what you do when you don’t have a job- you go to grad school? I decided to attend Liberty University to study and become a Christian Counselor and spend my life sharing God’s truth about second chances and new beginnings. I never knew I would be sharing that defining moment with anyone but hope my story on an Easter Sunday in 1982 will help you see that God hasn’t abandoned you, and that you are not alone in this life. Because God’s plan for an unemployed and discouraged young man in the Garden Tomb was to one day be a communicator of His truth, and for these boots to be used, not in the Middle East… but rather for these boots to be used here, with you and to talk about second chances.

Remember, because of Easter God is not mad at you. Jesus died to save you, and hasn’t forgotten you… Like this note, (pulling note from pocket) that was given to me in a crowd of people at a John Maxwell conference in 1996. I know some of you must be thinking that I’m really sentimental with keeping these pieces of paper, and others of you are thinking “nope, he’s mostly mental – not senti-mental, just mental” Well, these notes have great meaning to me, let me read it, “Dwight- Everything you are looking for can be found in Jesus, in Him alone. Don’t extend your search beyond Him.” I didn’t know what that meant in 1996, it was a really tough time. I had let some people down and was at a very low point when that message challenged me that no plan is complete without Jesus Christ. He is the plan… “Jesus Christ Changed my life. Repeat that after me, “Jesus Christ Changed my life.” The Empty tomb is the path to Jesus, who would rather die than live without you. So now the challenge to become part of God's story, to not be afraid like the Bible describes the disciples on that first Easter morning. Listen to Mark 16:1-13

“1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. 12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.”

Did you see the difference? The disciples didn’t believe on that first Easter, but later when they brought Jesus back into their story they went from being scared to standing strong all because of Jesus… in fact, they were never the same because of Jesus. All of the disciples except for John were martyred for their faith, and they had a new boldness, all because of Jesus. And because of Easter your story has a second chance too… you can have a new beginning. Jesus paid the price for you to have a new beginning, now what will you do with it?

Here is a final thought,

“You can’t go back in time, it’s true, but because of Jesus you can have a new beginning and make a brand new you.”

Thank you very much!

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