Monday, March 28, 2011

Is it really all good?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your kids come in from playing and tell you that you no longer had a back yard?   To look out you window and see that your backyard had begun to slide towards the neighbor's property?  In a twenty-four hour period to be told that you could no longer inhabit your home?  This is the home you planned to raise your children in and grow old in.  Now you no longer had a home?  What would you do and where would you go?

I pray you never face this dilemma, yet a family in our church is having to face this dilemma.  The Walkers have had to leave their home of seven years because the ground around it is no longer stable.  Can you imagine ending up homeless because of a random act of nature?  For many of us, our first question would be, "God, why are you doing this?"  We may question God's wisdom and His love for us.  I'm not sure how I would respond, but my question in all of this has been:  Does Romans 8:28 still apply?  Can even this loss of a home work out for the good?

As you would guess, my answer would be "Yes".  You would probably think I would answer in the affirmative because I am a pastor and that is what I am supposed to say.  You might be thinking that I would answer differently if it were my home.  Perhaps, but eventually the truth of this passage would bear out it my life.  The human author of this verse is Paul, who has spent his Christian life homeless and in peril.  He faces death and prison on a daily basis.  Yet, he knows God is trustworthy.  He has seen how his own trials have added to the Kingdom and how these struggles have opened doors for witnessing.  This passage is not written by a theologian who spent his life nestled away in the safe cocoon of a seminary, but a missionary who has faced every difficulty and threat know to man because of his faith in Christ.  So, yes, the Walkers will see good in this...eventually.  That doesn't mean it's not painful or discouraging, but God still loves them and has good in store for them.

I'm not sure what has threatened the foundation of your life and faith, but I am sure God wants to bring something good from it.  Whether this is a dilemma of our own making or whether it is a dilemma from which we have no control.  I would encourage you to cling to this verse and let God bring about good.  Hold on to your faith, testify to God's goodness and persevere.   I pray that this Sip will refresh you as you face the dilemmas of your life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Do you know?

Please take a moment to read I John 5:13

This one verse gives us the main purpose of God giving us the Bible - He wants us to know the way of salvation.  John wrote to the church in this passage to remind them that even though they faced overwhelming obstacles, they had eternal life.  He didn't want them to be anxious, worried or doubting.  He wanted them to KNOW they would be in Heaven.

God is not playing a game of hide and seek with us.  He created us and He created a way for us to experience Heaven.  He sent Jesus to die on the cross in place of our sins and then raised Him from the dead to conquer sin, death, Satan and Hell.  Once and for all, our path to Heaven is clear.  It is through making that commitment to Christ and allowing Him to have control of our lives.  Those of you who were at church on Sunday morning saw three people take that step of faith.  They received the gift of eternal life and we will see them again in Heaven when this life is over.  They simply believed what Jesus said and received His gift.

However, our enemy wants to confuse our minds.  You see, the mind directs the feelings.  There is a split second between when an event occurs and we feel something.  In that split second, the mind tells the body what to feel.  For instance, when you are driving down the road and someone cuts in front of you, your first thought directs your emotions.  If you think, "This guy is an idiot and trying to cut me off", your emotions will respond to that thought.  If you think, "This guy must be in trouble, maybe I should pray for him", your emotions will respond to that thought.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us to let our minds be transformed, then we will know God's will.  Everything flows from the mind.  So the question must be asked:  What am I putting in my mind?  Is it the music of the world?  Is in the web sites of the world?  Is it the gossip of our co-workers?  Is it the latest popular TV show?  Am I memorizing any Scripture?  Do I ever listen to praise songs?  Do I have deep conversations with other followers of Christ?  The old saying "Garbage in, garbage out" really is true.  Will you take this time season of Lent as a time to put the good stuff in your mind so you can know you have eternal life?  There are too many American Christians who can name the final contestants on "American Idol" but cannot name the books of the New Testament.  They have seen every "Harry Potter" movie, but have never read the entire Bible.  They can sing along with every song on the radio, but have never memorized a chapter from the Bible which would help them with life.  They faithfully watch NFL games each weekend, but are too tired to spend time alone with God is His Word each day.  Please know, this is not a rant, just an observation.  Is it any wonder the Church in America lacks power and faith.  Our minds are filled with the trivial pursuits of this life instead of the eternal truths that come from God!

May this Sip from the Well help in transforming your mind!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The "F" Word?

Born in 1856 as a slave on a tobacco farm in Virginia, Booker T. Washington came of age when being a black man in America meant limited opportunities and a hard life.  His mother was a cook in the home and his father was a white man from a nearby farm.  He went to school each day, but not as a student.  He carried the books for one of the Burroughs' daughter who attended school.  It was illegal in the South to educate a slave, so he was not able to study.  In 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read at his farm and he was freed from the shackles of slavery.  So he moved to West Virginia to live with his stepfather working at the salt mines.  However, he did not desire a life of manual labor, so at age sixteen he walked to Hampton Roads, Virginia with the hope of attending the now-named Hampton University.  Through perseverance, he was able to gain admittance and even returned later to become a teacher.  In 1881, he was named the first president of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  Such a position had only been available to whites before Washington took such a post.  He worked to bring civil rights to the freed slaves of the South, raising the objections of many whites.  He also urged blacks to work with whites to bring about social change, which alienated him from many blacks who felt he should be more outspoken and critical of whites.  He wrote 14 books and worked to educate the freed slaves to have a place in America.  But he often faced incredible opposition and anger from the very people he was trying to help and those with whom he sought to work.

Why did I mention all of this?  On Sunday, we talked about the "F" word - Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a powerful word, but it also causes us to give up power in a situation once we forgive.  Booker T. Washington put it this way:  "I will not permit any man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him."  He understood that people will mistreat us, but he also understood the fact that he alone controlled his reaction to mistreatment, persecution and hatred.  Return hatred for hatred only leads to corrupting of our souls which leaves lasting scars.

Who do you need to forgive?  What grudge or wrong are you holding on to?  After church, one of our members talked to me and said he wished he understood this fact several years ago because the person he was angry at is now dead.   Though he has forgiven the person, he has never been able to speak to that person's face and heart in seeking reconciliation.  Don't wait until it is too late.  Luke 23 reminds us that Jesus looked on those who were killing Him and said, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."  Would you be willing to ask God to forgive those who have hurt you and allow yourself to forgive them?  If so, this Sip will find you experiencing a freedom which will allow you to truly love others and be passionate about following Jesus.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Building Faith in the Home

This past weekend was the BASS convention, which had some wonderful workshops to help us improve as leaders, teachers and followers of Christ.  I chose one workshop called "Building Faith in the Home" by Rachel Key because I want to build faith in my own home.  Studies show that around 60% of teens who go to church will walk away from their faith in college.  I don't want that to happen in my home or in the homes of Hillcrest families.  So, in a nut shell, here is what I learned:

Barna polled youth in church youth groups (Not all youth, just the youth in church) and they found these results:
-48% said they viewed their mom as religious
-Yet only 28% of those youth had ever had their moms initiate a conversation about faith with them.
-23% said they viewed their dads as religious
-Yet only 13% of those had ever had their dads initiate a conversation about faith with them.

This poll is a stark reminder that the primary instrument of faith instruction in the home is NOT the church, but the parents.  

Take a moment to read Deuteronomy 6:7-9
Now list some responsibilities God gives to the family in regards to teaching faith.
How have you been doing with passing faith on to your children?  Your grandchildren?  Your nieces and nephews?

Barna also found that families who had an active faith which lasted shared four qualities in common.  He called them the SLOW families:
S - Serve
The family must serve together.  They find ways to minister together.  They sacrifice personal time to serve in the community.  They might go on mission trips together.  They might serve at a food pantry.  They might be involved in the same ministry at church.  This was the most important variable because it gave children the opportunity to see mom and dad living out their faith.

L - Love
They have a love for each other.  They worked at speaking to each other with words of encouragement and affirmation.  Love was expressed in discipline and expectations.  Love was shown in forgiveness and seeking forgiveness.  The spouses enjoyed being with each other, playing with each other and put a priority on their relationship.  This deeply affected the security of the children in the home.

O - Obey
Children were expected to obey their parents.  Parents were expected to obey the laws, their boss, etc.  Most of all, their was an obedience to Christ.  These families sacrificed sports which were played on Sunday so they could obey God to honor the Sabbath.  They honestly evaluated the movies, computer sites, and other entertainment in light of their faith.

W - Worship
They worshiped together.  Too often our churches segregate children and youth into their own worship service rather than allowing families to worship together.  Churches which made an effort to have families worship together aided in this process.  But this worship was more than just a Sunday morning thing.  Families had prayer time before bed and talked about their faith as a normal part of daily conversations.

I share these things with you so that your family will be a SLOW family.  It is never too late to begin instilling genuine faith in our homes.  You don't have to do everything today, but begin to examine these four areas and discuss with your family how you can implement them in your home.  Your children's faith and your faith is worth taking a Sip from the Well.