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!