Sunday, December 18, 2011

Every now and then

Almost all of my life I have played competitive sports or been involved in some type of athletic endeavor.  Even now that I am 50, I go to the gym at least four times a week to stay in shape.  In athletics, you are always trying to push yourself to improve.  Even when a team wins the World Series, Super Bowl or NBA championship, the talks quickly turns to next year.  I remember a a professional surfer, Joey Buran, talking about seeing his dream come true as he won the Pipleline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu in 1984.  He stood on the stand and was given his trophy and his check.  Pictures were taken and the crowd was cheering.  Then a storm rolled in and before he could even soak in his victory, the beach was empty except for the guys breaking down the winner's stand.  There was no time to stop and celebrate.  It was there one moment and in a blink of an eye, it was gone.



I remember being chosen to play basketball for Athletes In Action in 1987.  I was going to go on a tour of the Philippines and Korea, playing with a group of college basketball players.  I had never even played on my high school basketball team but had played tons of basketball all of my life.  To prepare, I spent two hours every morning in the gym working on my shot and preparing my body to play at this level.  I was in the best shape of my life, but I was in over my head.  Everyone on the team was a better player than I was.  I could look at my game and see the many ways I needed to improve.  During our tour, I worked on those parts of my game and to this day, I still try to improve as a basketball player.  There never was a time when I stopped and thought to myself, "I have finally arrived as a basketball player".  There was always a way to improve.  I have included a picture of that team.  See if you can find me in the picture and win a prize.



As followers of Christ, we seek to meet a standard we can never meet.  We want to live like Jesus lived, even though we know we will never be able to do that.  We always see ways we can improve.  We know our sins.  We know where we fall short.  So we rarely ever stop and celebrate the steps we have already made.  Unfortunately, we become driven by what we can "do" rather than remembering to celebrate what Christ is doing in us.  We don't stop and affirm what we see in the growth of others or ourselves.  This is sad but true and can often make Christians look neurotic and maybe even become obsessive or guild-ridden.

So I want to take a moment in this week's Sip to celebrate.  Our church set a goal of $2,012 for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.  For those of you not versed in Southern Baptist lore, Lottie Moon was a missionary to China who gave her life on this field.  We have an annual missions offering which helps finance the work of our missionaries all over the world.  Hillcrest is not a large church with only about 80 people on a Sunday morning.  Last year, our giving to Lottie Moon was a little over $1,300.  Understanding the terrible financial situation of the Bay Area meant that this goal was HUGE for our church.  Yet today, we surpassed that goal by over $1,000!  I am blown away by the generosity of our church.  The only way we reached this goal was by members sacrificially giving.  This has probably affected how much our members can spend on their own Christmas celebrations.  But this will impact lives all over the world.  Every now and then, we need to stop and say "Well Done".  To the Hillcrest family, I want to tell you how proud I am of you and how honored I am to be in ministry with you.  You have done a fantastic job.  Certainly, we are not where we need to be, but you have shown faith and generosity.



Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:15-16, "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the Gospel, when I set our from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only;  for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again".  The church at Philippi was financial poor, but rich in generosity.  Hillcrest family, this describes you.  Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many in our world.  May you have a blessed Advent.  May this Sip refresh you as you stop and celebrate your dedication to Christ.  Well done, good and faithful servants.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perfection

Today, Thaddeus and I went to Mitch Abbott's home to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Oakland Raiders.  Mitch is a serious Raiders fan, so today was difficult for him.  The Packers soundly defeated the Raiders in a game that was never even close.  Why did we want to watch this game?  Well the Packers are undefeated this season and have the rare opportunity to go the entire season (Regular season and playoffs) undefeated.  The way they played today, it certainly seems possible.  Of course, the Packers are just one injury away from failing miserably and maybe even losing in the first round of the playoffs.  There are so many factors that determine the outcome of a season for an NFL team.  Just ask the Indianapolis Colts about losing Peyton Manning for the season and they will confirm what I have said.



I remember in 1972 when the Miami Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl.  They had a perfect record of 17-0.  They had the No-Name defense along with players like Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield and Bob Griese.  I was eleven years old at the time and watched as this team made history.  We watched the Super Bowl (I was pulling for the Redskins) as the Dolphins completed their undefeated run with a 14-7 win.  The most memorable moment of the game was Garo Yepremian trying to pass after a botched field goal attempt only to have Mike Bass return it for the 'Skins only touchdown of the day.  But when the dust settled, the Dolphins had made history and no other team has been able to duplicate that perfection.



I began to think about other professional sports leagues and undefeated teams.  Below are the four major professional sports leagues in America and the number of teams that have gone undefeated:
The National Football League - 1, the 1972 Miami Dolphins
The National Basketball Association - 0
Major League Baseball - 0
The National Hockey League - 0
-


Advent is the realization that without Jesus, we will never enter Heaven.  We must be covered in His righteousness or we will never see eternal life.  He is perfect because we are not.  Rather than mankind working their way towards God, God came to mankind.  He came wrapped in the frailty of humanity, as the Savior of the world.  He came as Immanuel - "God with us".  He lived on the earth and was perfect.  Then the only one to reach perfection sacrificed His own life on the cross for the rest of mankind.  On the third day, He rose from the dead and offers eternal life to anyone who will believe and receive Him as their personal Savior.  Advent!  Awesome!



Yet, I am always amazed at how followers of Christ can then try to act like they have perfection in their own lives.  We come to church and never let anyone see the kinks in our armor.  We don't want people to know we are struggling with our marriage or struggling with our kids or discouraged about our job or getting hammered by Algebra.  We feel like we have to act our the charade of being perfect because Christians aren't supposed to have messed up lives.  Can we please be real with each other and come to church to be encourage and to encourage others who are imperfect?  Can we love each other and share our struggles and spiritual strongholds?  I mean, if only one professional team has ever been perfect for a season and only one person ever been perfect, can we not actually allows ourselves to experience God's grace in our imperfection?  May this Advent season find you at peace with your flaws and failures.  May it find you willing to love others who blow it.  May it allow you the courage to share your heart with others.  May it give you the strength to try to please God just one more time.  May you be refreshed this Advent season.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Now that's a long time!!

This morning, we looked at the prophecy of Micah concerning Jesus as the Messiah.  As I prepared this sermon, I was once again amazed at the accuracy of the prophet to describe the Messiah.  So I went back and looked up a few more passages which predict the Messiah's birth.  Josh McDowell states in his book, "Evidence that Demands A Verdict" that there are over 300 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah fulfilled in the life of Jesus.  I won't look at all three hundred, but will take a moment to peruse a few of them.



Isaiah (Writing in the 700's BC) wrote these prophecies - The New Testament fulfillment is beside it:
7:14  The Messiah would be born of a virgin     Matthew 1:18
11:1  The Messiah would be from the family line of Jesse    Luke 3:23, 32
7:14  The Messiah would be called Immanuel("God with Us")  Matthew 1:23
40:3  The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger    Matthew 3:1-2

Micah (Writing between 740-700 BC) wrote these prophecies:
5:2  The Messiah would be born in Jerusalem    Matthew 2:1
5:2  The Messiah would be pre-existent    Colossians 1:17

Jeremiah (Writing between 627-600 BC) wrote that the King would kill children after the birth of the Messiah in Jeremiah 31:15.    Matthew 2:16

These are just a few prophecies about the birth of Jesus.  I have even gone into the myriad of prophecies about His ministry, His life, His death or His resurrection.  If you read these passages, you will find specific information about the Messiah who will save the world from their sin.  There would only be one Messiah.  Now either the Bible is accurate on this and is fully trustworthy on all matters or it is wrong about this an not trustworthy in any matter.  There is no middle ground.  If these prophecies are true, then Jesus really is the only one who can save us from our sins.  He is to be worshiped, trusted, followed and obeyed.  So check out the dates of these writers.  The writers give us these prophecies centuries before Jesus is born.  They are compiled and placed into the Bible so that generations to come can see the accuracy of our God.  You see, Jesus was not a fall back plan by God.  He was not a quick injection into a sticky situation.  He was not a band-aid on an unexpected cut.  No, Jesus Advent was planned from the beginning of time.  God becoming man and becoming the perfect sacrifice was always what God was going to do.  These prophecies bear this out.

Okay, so let's put this into our context.  Six hundred years ago was the beginning of the 1400's.  Western man still believed the earth was flat, the Americas had not been discovered and Joan of Arc had just been born.  If you were alive then, could you have accurately predicted things like airplane travel?  The Internet? The United States of America?  And if you could predict the coming of the USA, could you have told us about the president in 2012?  That is what these prophets had done.  Okay, so you think you are up to the challenge?  In the year 2612, what will our world look like?  Tell me the leader of one country and what he or she will be like?  Can you do it?  Of course not, so we begin to see how incredible these prophecies are.

During Advent season, some overweight dude in the scarlet threads gets all the pub.  He is as real as the Great Pumpkin.  However, the Messiah...the King of Kings...Immanuel...Son of David...The Good Shepherd....The Lilly of the Valley...The Bright and Morning Star...Jesus SHOULD be getting the pub.  Will you take a moment to read through those prophecies again and commit to sharing them with someone?  It may just change their world!!  Please remember who you serve during this Advent season.  We serve the true Messiah who is the Lamb of God!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Who is Lottie Moon and why does she want my money

If you look around now, you will see all of the tell-tale signs of the Christmas shopping season:  Stores decorated and lit up, newspapers stuffed with advertisements, e-mails telling about the great Cyber-Monday deals, shopping center parking lots filled with cars, Salvation Army kettle ringers, sleep deprived people driving from store to store on Black Friday, people in a hurry and looking stressed/haggard, and the smell of pepper spray in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.


Okay, sot his last paragraph was written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  However, we Americans have left ourselves open to such ridicule because of our obsessions with material possessions at this time of the year.  Yet as a Southern Baptist, there is another tell-tale sign of the celebration of Jesus' advent:  The Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions.  The uninitiated may ask, "Who is Lottie Moon and why does she want my money"?  Well, she doesn't really want our money since she died in 1912.  However, she was a Southern Baptist missionary to China who gave her life to spread the message of Christmas/Easter with the Chinese people.  She also worked tirelessly to get SBC churches in America to support spreading the Gospel to International lands.  Long before the Internet and e-mails, she wrote letters in her own hand and mailed them to churches and individuals.  So the Southern Baptist Convention has named the offering to support International missions after her.  In reality, the over 3,000 career SBC missionaries are the ones who need our money so they can continue to see a Kingdom harvest.



The International Mission Board estimates that there are over 11,545 people groups in the world.  Of those, there are 6,672 who have a population of less than 2% Christians.  3,575 of those people groups are not actively engaged by any Christian mission group or movement.  So we are facing a huge task as we look at the need for Christ in our world today.  Most of us will not be able to go and spend our lives sharing Christ with one of these people groups.  However, as we mentioned in Sunday's sermon, we can make a difference by giving so others can go.  Some are "Goers" and some are "Givers".  If we aren't going, we should be giving.  Don't get sidetracked by the amount of the gift because a little goes a long way in the hands of the King of Kings.



This Saturday, our Missions/Outreach Committee is hosting a White Elephant auction with the proceeds going to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.  We will decorate the church at 2:00, have our coffeehouse at 3:00 and then have our auction at 4:00.  So bring your wallet, your wrapped white elephant gift along with a spirit of giving and adventure as we begin our journey towards reaching our goal of $2,012.



Which brings me full circle in this blog.  You can fight the crowds or spend all day on line looking for the perfect gift which probably won't last past Christmas Day.  Or you can make an investment in eternity by giving to International Missions.  It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition, but for most of us to give to missions, we will need to make some sacrifices in our Christmas spending.    Giving to the Lottie Moon offering will make a difference for people in foreign lands.  I believe that you will be greeted in Heaven by those who have heard/responded to the Gospel through the opportunity you gave them with your financial support.  Think and decide which gift is best and make this Advent season really count.  See you Saturday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Freedom

From 1861 until 1865, the United States fought her bloodiest war ever, the American Civil War.  One of the major catalysts for this war was the issue of slavery which had been causing divisions since the first slaves arrived on these shores.  Over 625,000 men lost their lives during this war as American liberated her slaves, more casualties than any other war in American history.  This war was fought on American soil with farms, homes, building and entire cities being destroyed.  All of this done in the name of freedom.



Today, many mistakenly think that we no longer have slavery in America, but that is not true.  The United States Congress today estimates that there are over 100,000 American minors exploited in domestic minor sex trafficking, through the pimping industry, using the internet and on the streets.  Much of the illegal immigration coming to America are minors being brought for the express purpose of the sex slave trade.  There is no easy way to gloss over what is happening in our country.  California is one of the major destinations for human trafficking and our laws are very lax.  The penalty for human trafficking amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist.  As we learned at the Higher Ground Coffee House, there is something we can do about it.  If you weren't there, please go to http://californiaagainstslavery.org/  where you can learn more about this and how to get involved.  So within the borders of our country there are over 100,000 slaves right now who need to have freedom.  It is the task of the church to bring freedom to the captive.



Please take a moment to read John 8:34-36.  In this passage, Jesus reminds us that if we are His followers then we are free.  Jesus came for the express purpose of setting us free from the penalty of sin.  Now, we will still have to face the consequences of our sin, but the penalty has been paid.  Romans 6 reminds us that this is the free gift of God.  We cannot earn it, only receive it.  If you haven't received the freedom from sin found only in Jesus, today is the day for you to cry out to God and accept that gift of salvation.



Once we receive that gift of freedom we can now utilize that freedom to bring about change in our lives and the world or abuse that freedom and harm those around us and ourselves.  I Peter 2:16 says, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil;  live as servants of God."  What a powerful reminder of the responsibility that comes with our freedom.  Do we use our freedom as an excuse to feed the flesh?  I have been amazed at how many Christians as so enamored with the "Twighlight" series which glorifies the very things God has warned us about.  I have heard a multitude of Christian justifications this weekend as the latest movie drew record crowds.  I listen to the reasons for seeing these movies and I can only hear the sound of people feeding the flesh.  I'm not slamming this particular movie;  It just happens to be a perfect example of abusing our freedom in Christ.  What we do with our freedom will affect how others view Christ and whether they come to Christ or not.  



This I Peter passage reminds us to live as servants of God.  We have had our freedom purchased at a high price so we can actually become slaves to Christ.  But he certainly is a more benevolent master than sin.  Not only does He give us eternal life, but He will give us a meaningful and purposeful life.  So what are you doing with your freedom?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Who will triumph this week in your life?

Most of us have heard the saying, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."  It is attributed to Edmund Burke, a British Statesman in the 1700's, although the quote is not found in any of his writings.  Burke warned England about engaging in a battle with the American colonies and took a very unpopular stand in desiring to grant the colonies freedom.  He also spoke out against the French Revolution and the excesses taking place in that country.  Even if he did not directly make the quote, he certainly gave a framework for its understanding.



This past week, college football was rocked by the news that a prominent assistant coach at Penn State had sexually assaulted several underage boys.  As more details have been released, it appears that those in leadership at Penn State knew of this activity and did the bare minimum about it.  No one stepped up to stop this man or hold him accountable as he still had access to the Penn State facilities through the week before the accusations became public.  All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  I listened to an interview done with a former professional football player named Heath Evans http://heathevans.org/Home.aspx.  He has started a foundation to minister and care for victims of such heinous crimes.  I was almost brought to tears as I listened to him plead at the end of his interview for anyone who had been abused to call and his foundation would pay for counseling and help.  His stand was that Penn State should show support for the victims by cancelling the rest of the season, all football players should be released from their commitment and allowed to play at other schools with no penalty and that the NCAA should give the "death penalty" to the Penn State football program for a lack on institutional control.  Many who follow college athletics would say that is too harsh of a penalty.  However, we live in a culture which allows predators multiple chances and opportunities.  We allow the enablers of predators to pay no price.  We no longer have an attitude of caring for those in need.  We don't want to get involved.  We don't want to make waves or cause a problem.  We are afraid to step in and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.



As followers of Christ, involvement is not an option.  Jesus told the parable of a man who was beaten and left for dead.  Two religious leaders pass by this beaten man and do nothing.  They easily justify their actions by their busyness and religiosity.  However, one man stops and renders aid, going beyond what is expected to care for this man.  He ends the parable by asking this question:  "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"  Then Jesus tells His hearers to go and do likewise.


This parable screams to us today.  The Church cannot just pass by on the other side and justify neglect by saying we are busy or our faith forbids us.  We are called to get involved with those who cannot stand for themselves.  This Sunday evening gives you the opportunity to do this at our Higher Grounds Coffee House as we hear about slavery in California today.  http://californiaagainstslavery.org/   It is an opportunity for you to get involved in standing for those who have no power to stand for themselves.  But throughout this week, we will have opportunities to speak for those who need help, to assist someone who has nothing and to be a good neighbor.  Will we justify our inactivity and allow evil to triumph because we have done nothing?  Or will we get our hands dirty and get involved in the mess of life by caring for the least of these?  Will you be a good neighbor?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You need to read this

On Sunday morning, I told you about the Youth Minister from my teen years who was facing cancer and how he broke the news on his blog.  I went back and read it again today and felt like everyone I know could benefit from reading this response to cancer from Don Brock.  So in this week's Sip from the Well, I will defer to "Daddy Don" and let his words minister to you.  Below is a link to this blog. Please take the time to read it.  You will be blessed.  I hope it will encourage you to face whatever "tragedy" is in your life with faith, which gives an abiding peace.

http://pastordonbrock.blogspot.com/2010/05/dreaded-c-word.html

Monday, October 31, 2011

Some things weren't meant to be fixed

On October 21rst, after flying to North Carolina, I drove from Greensboro to King.  The purpose of my visit was to officiate the wedding ceremony of Grayson Denny and Melissa Culler.  Grayson is the son of a close friend and I was shocked and honored when ask to take part in the wedding.    I got to King in the afternoon and spent some time with the family before the wedding.  At 5:00, everyone needed to hit the showers before the wedding rehearsal.  There was just one problem - No water.  The Dennys have a well, so Dwight(Grayson's Dad and my friend) cleaned the filter, figuring that would solve the problem.  But it didn't.  We did all we could and then left for the rehearsal.  Not having water is a difficulty, but this was beyond a difficulty because on the 22nd, the wedding reception was to be held at the Denny home.  They had a tent set up in the yard and were expecting about 150 guests.  Having no water would definitely cause problems.  What would you do in that situation?

Well, Dwight called a plumber who came and pulled his three hundred foot water line out of the well.  Unfortunately, the pump had chosen this day to die and had to be replaced.  So while everyone in the wedding party was having pictures made, Dwight's Dad and I drove 30 minutes to get the new pump.  While we were at the wedding, the plumber replaced the pump and it worked fine.  We came to the house after the wedding and had running water waiting on us.  Grayson and Melissa will always remember their wedding for a multitude of reasons, one of them being the water pump disaster.  We had to shower the morning of the wedding at someone else's home and pray that the water would be fixed.  Since I only had to perform the wedding, it wasn't a big deal for me.  Had I been in the wedding, the parents of the groom or the groom himself, this would have been a very big deal.

I don't know if Murphy has a law about this, but it seems like every time we have a major event, there is a major problem which arises.  At the time, it causes us stress, but afterwards it makes the event even more memorable.  It is much easier to laugh at it in hindsight than it is when the pressure is raging.  It's also important to note that most people involved are not aware of the difficulty or as involved as we usually are.  So it becomes easier for us to stress.

This made me think about how I handle obstacles in my life.  My main path is to work the problem and fix whatever is broken.  Yet there are times when those things aren't meant to be fixed.  God has a purpose and a reason for them being broken and He wants us to trust Him.  He wants us to put Romans 8:28 into practice or James 1:2-5 into action.  He would rather us pray about this obstacle than just in and attempt to fix it.  We may find that what we call "broken", God sees as perfect for God views these things with the eyes of eternity.  I wonder if I can do a better job of seeing life from God's perspective?  I wonder if I can step back from my agenda, my schedule and my pace to see God's agenda, schedule and pace?  I wonder if I can have enough faith in God to laugh in the midst of a trial rather that stressing and not being able to laugh until later?  How about you?  It's going to take a change in how we think and how we view life.  I'm willing to give it a try....will you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bank on my word

In the past few years, we have seen so much uncertainty in our world.  We have seen people lose homes, jobs and their security.  We have seen protests over the inequities that have existed since time began.  We have seen natural disasters that have displaced so many people in the world.  At times, it may even seem overwhelming.

But I personally believe that in America we have seen one of the greatest disasters taking place in front of our eyes - Yet no one dares to speak about it.  This disaster is destroying the generations which will follow behind us.  It has helped to deliver unprecedented crime, incarcerations and anger.  It has torn away at the very fabric that holds any society together.  This is the earthquake of destruction reeking havoc among us:  We don't honor our commitments.  Our word is not trustworthy.

I hear commentators talk about how politicians flop and change positions all the time.  We want to point to others, but we really should point to ourselves.  The greatest expression of our commitment is in a covenant.  A covenant is not a legal agreement, it is a person making a commitment regardless of what the other person does.  It says, "I will uphold my end of the deal, no matter what you do".  This covenant is best expressed in marriage.  We covenant to love, honor and cherish and even say this in our wedding vows.  I have never been involved in a wedding with conditional vows which would go something like this:  "I promise to love, honor and cherish you as long as you make me happy and feel fulfilled".  No, we make a commitment that should be unconditional, but it's not.

The greatest destructive force in our country is the failure of marriage.  The latest statistics show that about 40% of all marriages end in divorce.  Statistics also show that the divorce rate increases with each divorce - Meaning a man who has been divorce twice is much more likely to divorce than someone who is on their first marriage.  Once we factor in the amount of couples living together rather than getting married, we see a huge failure of this basic building block of society.  It appears that close to 60% of all couples getting married this year will live together first, even though every study shows that living together is the single worst thing a couple could do to protect their marriage.  We have lost eh ability to honor our word.  When I say "we", I am speaking of the church.  Couple claiming to be followers of Christ live together with almost the same regularity as those who are not Christians.  There is almost the same amount of divorce within the church as outside the church.  So before we point at others, we need to take care of business at home.

What is your word worth?  Will you honor your commitment even when it gets difficult?  If you plan on getting married, there will always be a reason to walk away and give up.  But what is your word really worth?  Can your husband/wife count on you to be faithful to the vows you made on your wedding day?  Can that person you are dating value you enough to wait until you are married to live together?  Are you more willing to please God even if it means losing that boyfriend/girlfriend?  Tough questions!



Please don't think I am on a rant here.  I am simply pointing out what I think is the greatest weakness of the church in America today.  If our divorce rate was just 10% (which is huge by God's standard), our culture would know Jesus makes a difference and Christians keep their word.  All of this came to my mind as I prepare to go to North Carolina for a wedding.  What insurance is there for Grayson and Melissa that they will have a lifetime commitment?  Only their word to God and each other.  Their wedding ceremony on Saturday is their opportunity to make public this covenant they have made to each other and God.  



I am grateful that I married a woman who honors her commitments and keeps her word.  I don't know how she has been able to put up with me for seventeen years, but I am glad.  Actually, I do know - She has a dynamic and growing faith in Jesus, who has given her the strength to endure.  You might want to read Philippians 1:6 to understand this type of commitment.



My prayer is that this Sip will refresh you to honor your word - Whether in marriage or in some other undertaking.  Let your light shine and refresh others!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Being a fan isn't easy

I grew up in a home with a father who lived, breathed and died Wake Forest athletics.  During basketball and golf season, that was not usually a bad thing.  But during football season it was like having a root canal with no Novocain.  Okay, maybe it was like having two root canals with no Novocain.  It was painful to say the least.  After all, Wake Forest is the losingest division1 football team in the history of college football.  That's not really the claim to fame that you want.  It did teach us how to be tough and take harassment because there was really only one year we could celebrate.  The rest of the time, we would be happy to have the Demon Deacons end the season with a winning record.  It was a major miracle if they went to a bowl game.  



What in the world does this have to do with faith?  Just hang on and we will get there.  On Saturday afternoon, I watched Wake forest against Florida State (Who is ranked #23 in the nation) play on ESPN3.  I turned on the game after my son's baseball practice and the game was almost at the end of the fourth quarter.  So I got to watch the fourth quarter and Wake Forest was actually ahead.  The entire quarter, I am waiting for Florida State to come back and beat Wake because this is a normal occurrence for Wake.  Yet Wake was able to hold on and pull of the upset.  Even though I wanted to be calm, cool and confident, I couldn't.  I yelled at the refs.  I yelled at Coach Grobe.  I cheered when Wake did well and I groaned when they didn't do so well.  My blood pressure was probably a little high and even when it appeared Wake was probably going to win, I couldn't relax.  When the game finally ended I jumped around, yelled and posted the results on my Facebook page.  Even though it was been thirty years since I lived in North Carolina, seven years since I went to a Wake game and I never even attended Wake Forest, I am a fan.  It's now deeply embedded in my mind's DNA.  I can't escape it.  I will always want them to win.  I will always be delusional enough to think that this might be THE season for them.   Being a Wake Forest fan isn't easy!



The dictionary defines fan as:  "An ardent devotee; an enthusiast.  Short for fanatic."    I guess by that definition, I am a Wake Forest fan.  However, this morning at church as we were singing praises to God, I began to wonder if I really were a fan of Jesus.  I see Oakland Raiders fans dressing in wild costumes to pull for their teams.  I see fans as sporting events yelling and screaming, cheering for their teams.  I see fans of different TV shows, stopping everything they are doing to watch that show.  I see fans of different musicians laying out big bucks to download music, buy CDs and go to concerts.  So this is a powerful and fair question:  Am I an fan of Jesus?  Would others know my allegiance by how I live my life?  Sure I could get a Jesus tatoo, but that is a superficial way to express my faith.  I could rock Jesus gear everywhere I went, but that isn't fanaticism.  I could get a Jesus bumper sticker or a symbol to put on my truck.  But it that the level of fan I really want to be?




I want to look at Jesus more passionately than Wake Forest athletics.  I want to live, breath and die Jesus.  I want to cheer for those who are living for Him.  I want to join others in shouting praises to Him.  I don't want to be afraid to dance when I feel like dancing to the Lord.  I want to tell others about Jesus, even though they may think I am crazy.  You ought to see the looks when I tell people I follow Wake Forest athletics!  I want others to see my life as a calling card from the Savior of the world.  I want my conversation to revole around Jesus.  I want to see Jesus have victory in this world.  

How about you?  Do you want to be a Jesus fanatic or a casual consultant?  Yes, being a fanatic of Jesus isn't easy but it's always worth it!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mind your own bidness

"Mind your own bidness".  I heard that one time from a close friend in a church.  The pastor had just finished preaching about stewardship and tithing.  This friend's comment was that the church ought to not say anything about his money because the church had no business in talking about something so personal.  I thought about that comment today at Hillcrest as we listened to Rod Wiltrout share the incredible truths about Biblical stewardship on Sunday.  He looked at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, which reminded us that God owns it all and we are just the slaves.  We are to manage His resources in a way that brings a profit to the Kingdom.


Oops, I said the word "profit".  That's probably going to get me in hot water with some people who think the church should not focus on profit and loss.  If we don't focus on profit and loss, we neglect to focus on Jesus.  Remember, Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul."  Egad, Jesus talked about profit and loss.  Jesus also told us to count the cost before we follow Him.  He talked to His disciples about the least being the greatest in His Kingdom.  He reminds us throughout His Word that there is a profit we can take from this world and a loss.  In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we are reminded that followers of Jesus will give an account of all they have done with the life God has given them.

I'm not saying all these things to scare you or make you feel threatened.  But we need to understand that our stewardship affects eternity.  Yes, part of that is the tithing of money - Giving a minimum of 10% to the Lord's work.  By giving to your local church, you enable them to follow through on the command Jesus gave to make disciples of all nations.  If you feel your church isn't utilizing those resources properly then get involved and serve on the stewardship team so you can help make those decisions.  Rod told us about a bumper sticker he saw once that said, "If you love Jesus tithe.  Any fool can honk".  There is a deep truth to that pithy saying because our money is where we find our security and can become the greatest stumbling block to Jesus being the Lord of our lives.  Money (And the lack thereof) can become the guiding and driving force of our lives.  So are you going to let God become involved in your bidness or is that area off limits to His touch?




At the end of our conference, one of the pastors said he had just spoken with someone this week who didn't go to church because the church only wanted his money.  Rod's response was great:  I will summarize it this way:  Then you must not go to 49ers games because all they want is money.  You must not go to Target because all they want is your money.  You must not go out to eat because all they want is your money.  The difference in the 49ers, Target and a restaurant is that the church will utilize that money to change the world.  The church handles those resources in a way that honors the Lord and allows others to hear the good news of Jesus.



Rod also encouraged us to read 2 Corinthians 8-9 this week and look at God's prescription for a grace-giving life.  I hope you will take time to do that.

I hope that this Sip from the Well will remind you to let God's bidness encompass every aspect of your life!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Quality of our work

On Sunday, we looked at Solomon's views about how work or a career can be meaningless if it is not redeemed.  When we work simply for a pay check, we get frustrated and disillusioned, especially if it doesn't utilize our gifts and talents.  The most satisfaction in our employment comes when we believe we are making a contribution that will last.  Sadly, most of our jobs do not have this quality about them.  It certainly would be easier for us on Monday mornings if we had jobs which brought us joy, satisfaction and allowed us to do the things we really enjoyed doing.  If you have a job like that, then you are truly blessed.

However, if you fall into the category of having a job which doesn't utilize our God-given talents but allows us to pay the bills, then we must find a way to redeem that job.  On Sunday morning, we looked at the two ways Ecclesiastes 2 showed us.  Those are perhaps the best ways to redeem our jobs.  But if those don't work, here are some Biblical suggestions:

Read I Corinthians 15:9-10
In this passage, we are reminded by Paul that since he had received so much grace from God, he worked harder than others.  God's gracious gift of salvation motivated him to work hard, not to earn salvation but as a result of salvation.  He was so grateful to God for eternal life, that he wanted his work in this life to reflect God's grace.  Wow!  Do we do that at our jobs?  Do we work harder than others because we have been blessed with eternal life?  Does our work reflect an attitude of commitment, even in the menial tasks?  Do we have a quality to our work that surprise others because they are simply marking time?

Read Colossians 3:23-24
This passage reminds us to work with all of our heart because it is the Lord Jesus Christ we are serving.  So often, we will work hard for a "good" boss and slack off for a boss who acts like a jerk.  We forget that our ultimate boss is Jesus.  He gave us this job and He is the one we should work to please.  This will affect the joy we have when we go to work.  This means our job is eternally significant and we get to honor Jesus five days a week.  Whether this is our career or just a job along the way, we need to work in a way that Jesus is thrilled with us.  At the end of the day, is Jesus pleased by my effort, attitude and ethic at work?

As devoted followers of Christ, our actions and attitudes at the job are our greatest witness.  Others should be able to tell we serve Jesus by how we serve our boss.  When we have the opportunity to witness at work, people should not be surprised that we are Christians.  They should already know it by the way we work.  I can honestly say that I have never had a bad job.  I was blessed to have a Godly Dad who gave me an example of hard work and dedication.  I also was able to learn God's Word enough to know some of these truths about redeeming my work.  I often long to work in the secular world where people don't expect me to have a Jesus ethic.  People should expect the pastor to be a reasonable example of Jesus, but they don't always expect their co-workers to do that.  I have worked at places like:

Sneakers in the Carolina Circle Mall.

Pizza Hut

Delivering newspapers for the Greensboro News & Record

I didn't always enjoy everything about those jobs, but they helped prepare me for the next step in my life.  I thank God for the people I met in these places and for the insights God shared with me through them.  

So where do you work?  Are you a student?  Are you retired and about the choose where you spend your time?  Are you looking for work?  Whatever station in which you find yourself, let the quality of your work reflect the quality of your faith in Christ!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Something for Nothing

You've probably heard saying like these:  "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and "Nothing is ever really free".  These sayings really ring with truth.  Think about the last time someone told you about this unbelievable deal.  Once you got into, you realized it wasn't all that great.  I remember back in the 70's when I would see the advertisements from RCA which had the unreal promise of buying six albums (Back in the day, albums were larger CDs) for only one penny.  I remember being excited about that and writing down my choice of six albums when one of my brothers came into the room.  I told him about this great deal and then he burst my bubble.  He told me to read the fine print, which I did.  The fine print said that I would have to buy ten more albums during the next year at the regular price.  Since there was no Internet, I was unable to google their price list, but I'm sure they would have made money off me with their "regular" prices.  What a terrible way to find out that if something looks too good to be true, it is.  Just think about the advertisements for a free cell phone.  The fine print says we must sign a contract with this carrier for two years to get this wonderful "free" phone.  There really aren't many things which are free.

Yesterday, the El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce hosted the El Sobrante Stroll.  They block off about 1/2 mile of the San Pablo Dam Road and sells booth space to different organizations and vendors.  Our church always rents a space and sets up a booth (More about that later).  During the Stroll, I walked up and down the street to check out all of the booths.  Almost every single booth was trying to make money - Maybe they were vendors selling food or merchandise.  Maybe they were organizations trying to raise money.  For the past few years, this charging at every booth has become the common practice.  Even the booths for kids were charging to play games or play in the jumper or have the face painted.  So Hillcrest Baptist Church has chosen to buck the trend and provide a booth with quality entertainment for families at no charge.  We had two games set up (The Labyrinth and Skee Ball) along with prizes for the winners.  The high scorers in Skee Ball would receive a Family Gift Card donated by Chuck E. Cheese or a $25 gift certificate from Outback Steakhouse.  As we invited people to play these games, the first response was almost always, "How much is it?".  People had been programmed by what they had already seen to know there was a charge.  Then they wanted to know what the catch was because nothing is ever free.  But there was no catch and it was all free.  Our response was to tell them that God's love is free and the church doesn't charge to help people enjoy life.  It was amazing to watch faces light up as they were able to do something that would not hit their wallets.  Several people thanked me as they left because their kids had such fun playing the games.

It reminded me that we live in an age when the Church often uses the bait and switch method.  We invite people to something, but there is a hidden hook in it.  We invite you to come to hear and free concert and then take up a love offering.  We have a wonderful event, but before you can get what you came for, you have to listen to a sermon.  They hear pastors on the radio or see them on TV hocking their latest book or merchandise.  You can have this book or merchandise for a small donation.  So now our culture has become leery of the church because it appears we have a hidden agenda.

The Church should always be honest and have integrity in what we are doing.  People need to know that they can trust whatever the Church says.  Jesus spoke plainly and He spoke the truth.  Those who were seeking, were thrilled to encounter Him, but those who played games were offended by Him.  As followers of Christ, this is how we should live our lives.  Our family should know we are trustworthy and credible in whatever we say.  Our co-workers should be able to trust the words we say.  There is too much duplicity in the world today and we need some fresh, loving honesty.  It doesn't mean people will always appreciate what we say (Of course, we also can speak the truth in rude and offensive ways also - then tell everyone we are persecuted because of our faith).  But it doesn't mean people will respect us and know that we have integrity.  My prayer is that some of the folks at the Stroll who saw the love of Christ in action by the Hillcrest family will desire to follow through and come to church to see what the love of Jesus is all about.  Then they can see the truth of Christ being lived out by the Body Of Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-16 gives us a solid foundation for this insight.  Check it out and see what you think.  The church at Ephesus was dealing with false teachers who would manipulate the truth for their own gain.  Paul reminds them that in the Church, we speak honestly and we speak with agape.  That is what helps us grow up and mature in Christ.  The church in America could greatly benefit from the insights given to the church at Ephesus.  We need honest conversations which allow us to grow and mature.

How about you?  Do you have a hidden agenda?  Are you speaking the truth in love and accepting the truth others tell you?  May we be a refreshing breath of honesty in our world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where were you?

Most of us remember where we were when the news first came about planes crashing into the World Trade Center ten years ago.  Much like the generation of World War II can tell you where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor, this was an event that stopped business as usual.  If you have flown on airplanes since 9/11, you know that things have dramatically changed.  So where were you?  It was a Tuesday, which is my day off, so I was still asleep.  We had just moved to California from Hawaii and were living with Leah's sister in Walnut Creek.  Leah's brother-in-law came in the room and started telling us that the Trade Towers had been hit by a plane.  Since they didn't have television, we turned on the radio to listen.  We sat in stunned silence as we heard the reports.  Later that day, we went to a nearby hotel and watched the news to see this horrific event.  I can still remember where I was sitting at the Embassy Suites lobby when I saw the first replay.  It was almost surreal to see the plane slam into the building.   I have been to the top of the Trade Towers on several occasions and was broken-hearted to see those trapped at the top who were waving for help or jumping to get away from the flames.  Like you, I watched as the police and fire department ran into these buildings to save as many people as they could.   It has been a while since I allowed myself to reflect on that day because the carnage was so beyond belief.



In the ten years since 9/11, I am amazed at how our country has grown apart rather than pulling together.   The first few months after 9/11, there was a sense of unity and a desire to help each other, but the divisiveness and disunity in our country is growing daily.  It seems like everyone is just looking out for himself and his interests.  I am still amazed at the level of hatred that would drive someone to kill so many people.  How do you reach a point of anger and violence that would allow you to justify murdering so many unsuspecting and innocent people?  I am still amazed at how many people hate America and Americans.  I remember vividly the pictures of countries whose residents were dancing in the streets and celebrating this incredible loss of life.  I have been reminded of how blessed I am to live in America - An imperfect country but a country of diversity and freedom.  We are much more secure than most other countries of the world.  On 9/11 we had a glimpse into what Jews in Israel face every day simply because they profess a different religion from the surrounding countries.  Jews live daily with the knowledge they could die in a suicide bomb attack, have their country attacked by several countries or be kidnapped or beaten because they are Jewish.  In America, most of us are still clueless about the freedom we have to worship, work and live.  Though we have lost some of our freedoms since 9/11, we still have more freedom and choices than most other countries.



This morning, I reflected on how brief life can be.  One of our members' sons passed away on Saturday at the age of 44.  Life really is fleeting and the question that has rattled around my brain is this:  "How will I be remembered?".  If I were to die in a terror attack today, have I done anything which will last for eternity?  Have I seen people come to saving faith in Christ through my words and life?  Will my sons have a legacy to follow that is meaningful and significant?  Will those to whom I have ministered know what it means to follow Jesus because of how I lived my life?  Will I leave a legacy of faith and fortitude?  Will eternity be affected because I was alive?  Those are some rather pointed questions which we would all benefit from asking about our lives.  May this Sip from the Well lead you to make an eternal difference somewhere today!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Giving a Concise Answer

How would you answer the following question: " In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to get to Heaven?"

We have begun our TOUCH Ministry, in which we go into the community to share the good news.  We are visiting the guests who attended our Hillcrest Community Fair and seeking their opinions about the Fair.  The final question on that survey is the very question at the beginning of this Sip.  Last week, we heard three answers:  One talked about being good and doing the right thing, another talked about Jesus forgiving us of our sin and the third said to go to church and stay on the right path.  Of those three, only one is close to a Biblical answer and it is not very clear.  However, would you believe that all three go to Christian churches and all three probably believe they are saved?  

Before we find fault with others, go back to the answer you gave to that question.  Chances are, the majority of American Christians give a murky and unclear answer to that question.  Many would give an answer that had something to do with faith in Jesus and then add the things Christians are supposed to do (tithe, go to church, etc).  I have asked that question enough and have heard enough unbiblical answers over the years.  It is distressing to think that many (If not the majority) of Christians in our churches cannot give a clear and concise answer to the most critical question we will ever hear.  That would explain why more Christians don't share their faith - They can't express their faith clearly.  I wonder how many of our neighbors, family members and friends who readily commit their lives to Christ if they could just hear a simple, clear understanding of the good news.

So let me see if I can tackle this:  Option #1 - John 1:12.  This passage says we must first of all, believe.  We must believe that sin has separated us from God and that Jesus' death and resurrection paid the price for our sin.  Then we must receive that gift by committing our lives to Jesus.  It begins with a prayer of commitment, allowing Jesus total control of all we do.  How did I do?  Would you know what to do if you were wanting to have the gift of Heaven?  This passage in John simplifies the good news to believing and receiving.  We can't stop at believing, but must take a step of faith to take responsibility and make a decision.

If that is difficult to grasp, let me give you Option #2 - We learn this every year at Vacation Bible School, so it should be in your brain by now.  Getting to Heaven is as simple as ABC.  "A" means we must admit that we sin and are separated from God (Romans 3:23).  "B" means we must believe that Jesus died in the place of our sin and rose from the dead.  "C" means we must commit our lives to Him.  We trade this life for the life to come.  How did I do?  I know, I changed the "C" because Lifeway uses "confess" for the "C".  I just think we live in a society that understands but shies away from commitment.  Would you know what to do if you were wanting the gift of Heaven?

If that is difficult to grasp, let me give you option #3 - Jesus used one phrase to discuss the assurance of Heaven:  "Follow me".  We must make a decision to follow Jesus for the rest of our lives.  He becomes the one we imitate, trust and from whom we receive guidance.  We turn from following our own path of sin and destruction and follow Jesus.  How did I do?  Would you know what to do if you were wanting the gift of Heavean?

Granted, these three options don't go into much depth, but they are simple ways to explain the grace we have received from God.  Once we can't express this critical issue in a few, concise sentences, the doors will open for us to explain to others what we have just shared.  I would challenge you to solidify in your own mind the answer you would give if someone were to ask you, "In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to get to Heaven?".  That way, if another church came knocking on your door, they would immediately know they have found a brother or sister in Christ.  That way, we can express our faith to those who are searching for truth in way that clarifies and opens doors.  Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have in Jesus!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is anyone listening?

Romans 10:13 tells us, "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  There is no magic formula, no special prayer, no ritual to perform, no great feat to perform and no great price for us to pay.  Everyone - That includes...well...everyone.  Color doesn't matter.  Age doesn't matter.  Socio-economic standing doesn't matter.  Height doesn't matter.  Body type doesn't matter.    Morality doesn't matter.  The Bible lets us know that EVERYONE who sees his/her need for forgiveness and calls out to Jesus WILL be saved.  Not might, or probably or possible, but WILL be saved.  Too many in the church have exalted a thing called "The sinner's prayer" and think there is a specific prayer someone must pray to experience salvation.  God knows out heart and the words often come out in the midst of tears or just a burst of trust.  This passage in Romans is a reminder that salvation is free and available to everyone who would like to have it.  The greatest joy we can have in life is seeing someone take that step of faith.  Last Sunday, we celebrated Thaddeus making that step with his baptism.



This is a great reminder as we begin TOUCH this Wednesday night at 6:30.  TOUCH stands for Telling Others Urgently of Christ and Heaven.  We will meet for thirty minutes of preparation and prayer, then go to visit those who visited us at the Fair.  The purpose of our going is to give these friends an opportunity to call upon the Lord.  If you are able, I pray you will make it to TOUCH each Wednesday night.  If you are unable to be here, I ask that you pray for us as we go out to visit.  Our greatest calling as the church is to give people an opportunity to experience God's great gift of grace through Jesus.  I know that many consider Jesus a myth or think the church is meaningless or think that whatever religion you believe will lead you to Heaven or think being a good person will merit Heaven.  However, the Holy Spirit is the One who will convince those we visit of the need to make the life-changing step to call upon the Lord.    I truly believe that we have divine appointments with people who are just waiting for someone to share THE good news with them.  Several of our trained "witnessers" are not able to participate in TOUCH or no longer in the community.  So now some new servants need to step up and be trained to witness.  Will you be one of them?

For those of you who are a part of Hillcrest Baptist Church:  Please know that there are going to be spiritual battles going on in our homes this week.  They already started last week and some of you might have lost the battle (But not the war).  Be prepared to pray while we are in the midst of TOUCH.  Once the Church decides to go out into the community with the purpose of sharing Christ, Satan will get active against that church.  There will be spiritual battles in our homes, schools, jobs and neighborhoods.  Let me remind you to pray before you act.  Let prayer be a focal point as we seek to tell others about Jesus, not just about the church.  I'm looking forward to the next five weeks and seeing what will happen during this season of outreach.  Will you join us?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What a day!!

I was thinking this afternoon and I have probably been privileged to baptize over 100 people in my lifetime.  The first person I baptized was in 1990 at Waimanalo Beach Park on the windward side of Oahu.  Since that time, I have baptized in the Pacific Ocean, swimming pools, in the ocean near the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and even in baptistries.  I have baptized children as young as four years old and adults as old as 81 years old, and most every age in between.  I have baptized people who were brand new in their faith and others who have been Christians for a while, but never had been baptized.  Each one has been a moving experience for me because each one represented someone close to me personally and someone who now has their name written in the Lambs Book of Life.  The location has never mattered (Although it's tough to beat the Ednie's Pauko beach house).  The only thing that has mattered is the heart of the person who is now following Jesus.  Some of you reading this blog may even have been ones I have been privileged to baptize.  My heart has been touched by each one.



But on Sunday, I was able to perform a baptism that touched me on a deeper level than any other.  I had the incredible privilege of baptizing my seven year old son, Thaddeus.  He gave his life to Christ when he was four but wasn't ready to be baptized until now.  In the same breath, I was able to call him my "brother" in Christ and my "son".  Even now, my eyes begin to tear up when I think about today.  My Mom was able to be here from North Carolina to witness this great event.  My mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, her family and two friends from New Zealand.  I took a moment to look at the congregation when I came into the baptistry and was overwhelmed by the love and support the Hillcrest church family, our family and friends have given in our walk of faith.  Leah and her sister even sang a beautiful duet during the service and we had a cake afterwards to celebrate.  What a glorious day today was.

Romans 6:4 tells us that we have been buried with Christ through baptism so that we too may live a new life.  We baptize by immersion because that is how Jesus was baptized.  We also dunk because that is the only way new Believers were baptized in the New Testament because the Greek word for baptism really means "to immerse in water".  We also dunk because it is a beautiful picture of death, burial and resurrection, which is what happens when we come to Christ.  I praise God that my son is now living for Jesus and has made public his faith in Jesus.

If you have given your life to Christ and not been baptized,  this Sunday you may want to approach your pastor and tell him you are ready to take that step of faith.  If you've not given your life to Christ, why not make that decision right now and invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.  Your life will never be the same because He will give you eternal and abundant life.  If you have given your life to Christ and been baptized, take a moment to reflect on the significance of that day.  Maybe even take a moment to send a note of thanks to whoever was instrumental in you coming to Christ or being baptized.  Just like we should always remember the day we were married, we should always cherish the day we were baptized.  I thank God that I was not only there, but was the one who baptized my son.  I think I'll end this blog because I want to sit back and soak in the beauty of this day!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Riches

Thank you, Hillcrest Family, for an incredibly memorable and meaningful celebration of ten years as your pastor.  I was overwhelmed by the love and gratitude expressed by you towards me and my family.  The time and preparation which went into just the food was so valuable and remarkable.  I am still stunned by how much of your time and energy went into that meal and celebration.  The cards you gave and the words you shared were very humbling and I am grateful that God could utilize someone like me to make a difference in anyone's life.  Not just on this one occasion, but often, you make me feel encouraged, love and competent.  It's easy to serve with you because of the loving way you have treated me for the past ten years.  Most folks in ministry only hear these kinds of affirmations when they are leaving, retired or at their funeral.  We have several letters Paul sent to churches (Like Galatians, Ephesians, etc.), but we have no record of letters sent to Paul by any of these churches or individuals in those churches.  I think those letters would sound a lot like the cards and letters you have given me this week.  I feel so honored to be your pastor.

Some may think ministry is a lonely profession, but as I reflect on thirty years in ministry, that is not the case.  I remember my last of three Summer at Mount Olive Baptist Church in King, North Carolina.  I had graduated from college and was heading off to Louisville for Summer.  The church had a going-away party with the obligatory rolling of my car in toilet paper.  Though there were tears, the embraces and loving words still make me smile.  Over the years, these folks have stayed in touch with me and continued to love and support me.  I even have the privilege of being involved in the lives of the kids of some of those "youth".  Whenever I am able to make it back to King, I get a wonderful Martha Duggins home-cooked meal and a house full of friends laughing and loving.  Three years later, I was graduating from Southern Seminary in Louisville and was saying good-bye to my friends at Ridgewood Baptist Church.  I had served as Youth Minister during my three years in seminary.  The largest number of kids in that youth group were all graduating from high school the same year.  I remember how deeply I had been touched by that church and especially those seniors.  They had allowed me to become a part of their lives and I am still honored to be involved.  I thank God for Facebook because this has allowed me to reconnect with them.  I have only been back to Louisville one time since graduation, but these wonderful people continue to pray for me, love me and even harass me.  A week after leaving Louisville, I was ordained at my home church, Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro.  My family came and supported me and my Dad even gave the charge to me as a minister.  Quite a few folks from King came to this event and my home church turned out in a big way.  I remember thinking how blessed I was to grow up in a church that supported those who went into ministry.  Over the years, Lawndale has sent work teams to help with a construction project at the church I served on the Big Island.  Several me from Lawndale are my daily prayer partners.  I try to go to Lawndale whenever I am back in Greensboro and always get lots of hugs and love from the "older-timers".  Going to Lawndale is like going to a place of comfort and safety.  Two weeks after I was ordained, I began to work at Hawaii Baptist Academy in Honolulu.  I went to a place where I knew absolutely no one, but within a few months, I had made life long friends.  The students and staff at HBA made such an impact on my life.  Over half of my friends on FB are from HBA.  It is such an honor to still be involved in their lives.  Whenever I travel to an area with an HBA student, I have a place to stay or friends to meet to eat.  Many of them have shared wisdom and comfort with me over the years.  While on Oahu, I joined the First Baptist Church of Pearl City.  The depth of friendships from my five years at this church cannot be explained on any blog.  This church taught me how a church should show the love of Jesus in tangible ways.  They took me in and adopted me, trying to help acculturate me.  Hey, I'll always be a haole from the mainland, but they taught me local ways and introduced me to local foods.  I remember in 1991 when I was waiting at the interisland terminal for my flight that would take me from Honolulu to the Kamuela where I was to begin pastoring the First Baptist Church of Waimea.  I can still close my eyes and look around that airport at so many friends who were there to see me off.  I was covered in so many leis, I had enough for every person on my flight, so I shared those leis.  I remember thinking, "why am I leaving this place?", but I knew I was following God's direction.  When I landed on the Big Island, I was greeted at the airport by one of the members of the First Baptist Church of Waimea.  He said that he would take me to the parsonage, but that there would be nothing planned until the next night when I was to meet with the Pastor Search Committee.  I was a little relieved because saying "aloha" to all of my friends on Oahu had been a bittersweet experience.  I didn't want to be around people.  Imagine my surprise when I walked into a parsonage full of people.  It was an incredible welcome and I still remember some of those conversations.  Ten years later, God would lead my, along with my wife of seven years, to California.  I remember the send off at the Kona airport and seeing the faces of those wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ.  For ten years, we had laughed, love and served together.  It really was like leaving family.  In each of these places where God has taken me to minister, I have enjoyed building true friendships.  Many of these friendships have stretched over thirty years and some over thousands of miles.  When I see their faces, I can't help but smile.  Some even make me laugh (You know who you are).

I have seen the old, grainy video of Lou Gherig's retirement speech when he says the immortal words, "Today I feel like the luckiest man alive".  I don't feel like a lucky man.  I feel like a rich man.  Being obedient to Jesus has allowed me to meet some of the most wonderful people in the world.  I have the privilege of calling them "Friend".  They pray for me, love me even though they know how flawed I am and would be willing to help in an instant if I ever asked.  Many people go through their entire lives and may not even make on true friend.  How blessed am I to have some many true friends?  Riches cannot be measured by a bank account.  Riches can't be measured by popularity or how easy your name is to google.  In God's economy, riches have to do with eternity, with things that last.  I am rich because I have friendships that will stretch through eternity.  Even if I don't see these friends again in this life, we will party with Jesus in the next life.  I am so blessed by God!

I apologize for rambling in this Sip, but Sunday night was overwhelming for me.  I really don't know how to express my gratitude to Hillcrest Baptist Church for this affirmation.  It simply brought to mind what an honor it is as a minister of the Gospel to be allowed into the private world of so many people.  For those of you who have allowed me that privilege, please know how honored I am by that and how blessed you have made my life.  I hope this Sip will be an encouragement to you because if you have invested eternity into others, you also have riches which your bank account cannot contain.  Enjoy being rich, but pass on the key to these riches to others:  Jesus.  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believers in Him would not perish but have eternal life.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

An example for us to follow

This past week, we had a wonderful Vacation Bible School.  Our highest attendance of children was 37 and those kids learned how to put their faith into action.  Of the kids in grades 3-6, all but two of them had made commitments to Christ in their lives and those two have heard the Gospel numerous times at Hillcrest.  We had around 35 workers every single night serving, teaching, assisting, loving and being involved in the lives of the children.  Our summer missionaries were surprised to see how many adults were involved in our VBS because most churches struggle to have enough workers.


Without trying to offend anyone, I would like to make mention of one worker who is one of the many examples of service at our VBS.  The Hurst's daughter, Cindy, is visiting from Texas.  She is here to see her parents and went up to visit her grandmother in Oregon.  However, each night she was in town, she worked at the registration table.  She spent the evening at VBS serving wherever she was needed.  Cindy grew up in Hillcrest, gave her life to Christ and was baptized here, so it's not like she is a stranger.  However, she was here on vacation.  If I were on vacation and my home church was having VBS while I was there, I doubt I would go an help.  I would be too busy with others things to help.  Yet, here was Cindy setting an example for me.  She could have done a multitude of things while in the Bay Area, but she chose to minister to children and adults.  Of course, we could say the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree because Ken & Doris are such incredible servants.  Do you remember Sunday morning how many people raised their hands when I asked if they, their children or grandchildren had received a note from Doris Hurst?  It seemed like everyone who has every been to Hillcrest more than once has received a letter or card from her.  She even sends the most wonderful and affirming notes to my Mom who lives in North Carolina.  Yet, Cindy didn't have to come to church and help out at VBS.  She didn't do it because of her parents' reputation.  She did it because she loves Jesus.  



A lot of wonderful things happened at our VBS.  But I wanted to stop and focus on this wonderful example.  Cindy has encouraged me in such a deep way because of the passionate love she has for our Savior and our church.  With examples like that, how can I shortchange Jesus or Hillcrest?  Aren't you glad God has given us such wonderful examples?  I also want to thank you for being an example and encouragement to me.  As we look towards the Fall and opportunities to minister, let's continue to reach out and touch our community with Jesus' love!  My this Sip refresh you so that you might refresh others.