Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Do We Grow Up?

It's just a shame that we "grow up" and forget how to live like a child.  We forget to be caught up in the moment of something that seems mundane, but is so interesting(Like splashing in water or running around the in the rain) because we have so many important things to do.  Seeing a bird in flight or a lady buy on the leaf no longer causes us happiness because we are too busy to see it.  We are so busy getting ready and rushing out the door that we forget to say good-bye and kiss our loved ones.  Something happens to us that jades us and makes us unable or unwilling to have a child-like outlook on life.  We have been burned too many times or have too many obligations.  Think about it:  Our children rarely worry about food or clothes because they know their parents will provide them.  They can focus on important things, like building with blocks, playing in Pla-Doh or creating a fortress out of boxes.  There is wonderment and joy because they are waited down by responsibilities.

This past Sunday, I was reminded of that child-like wonderment as we baptized Lance Dopp.  If you have talked to Lance in the past month, you have seen a young man who is excited about life and will talk to you about Jesus with unabashed enthusiasm.  As we prepare for his baptism, he wasn't shy but thrilled to confess to others that Jesus is his Savior and Lord.  Sunday was a huge day for him and I am so proud of his family and the Hillcrest family for making that day special for him.  It is truly a day he will never forget.  His smile is electric and his enthusiasm contagious.  Lance isn't a perfect young man, he is just enjoying the incredible peace Jesus has brought into his life.

We could learn a lesson from Lance.  We could learn to be excited about our face.  We need to beam the joy Jesus has given us from our smile.  We need to greet total strangers with kindness because Jesus has changed our heart.  Others may be jaded and selfish, but we have been set free.  I am amazed at how often I fall into the trap of being a responsible adult (i.e., a boring, introverted, self-absorbed Christian) rather than a wonder-filled child(i.e., a grace filled follower of Jesus).  I get too caught up in my own little world and my plan for the day.  My agenda sets the tone, so I am busy accomplishing what I think needs to be done.  So I miss out on the wonder God has in store for me because God won't grab me by the collar and make me look.  He drops little miracles in front of me, hoping I will stop and be thrilled.  But I just rush on past because I have such important work to be done.  I could walk right by you in the store and never even notice you if I am focused on finding something in that store.  Another opportunity blown.


I want to be like what Jesus said in Luke 18:16:  "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it".  Wow!  Jesus doesn't tell us to be childish, which is self-centered.  He tells us to be childlike:  Full of wonder, amazement and trust.

Do you remember what I said about our children being free to play?  They are free to play because they don't worry about food or clothes, because they know Mom and Dad will take care of that for me.  I worry too much about those things that my Heavenly Dad has said He would take care of for me.  He told me in Matthew 6:33 to seek Him and His Kingdom first and He will provide my needs.  I think I will try that this week.  I think I will attempt to slow down and check out the amazing miracles God has placed in my path.  I may not finish my list each day, but I will be more refreshed and at peace.  I will see my faith develop and grow as I see God's unmistakeable handprints on my life.  I will feel the nudge of His Holy Spirit and the love of His son in ways I usually miss.  

Do you want to join me?  Let's take a lesson from Lance and live today in the pleasure and giddiness of loving God

Monday, January 14, 2013

Challenge 2013

In Major League Baseball (MLB), the use of steroids has been implicitly banned since 1971 and banned since 1991.  However, testing did not take place until 2003.  During that time frame, two baseball commissioners (Fay Vincent and Bud Selig) both tried to develop comprehensive testing to make sure the MLB players were not using performance enhancing drugs.  Their efforts were to no avail because the MLB Players Union said this would violate the players privacy rights.  There had been acrimony between the owners and the union for decades with several strikes and lock-outs.  The union had most often prevailed against the owners, so the owners were reluctant to agree.  They also saw a revival in gate attendance because the plethora of home runs which were now being launched by players of all skill level.  These gate revenues allowed them to overlook the now-known fact that the inflated home run numbers were the results of cheating by using performance enhancing drugs.  So from the late 80's through the 90's, players were able to artificially improve their performance through the use of these drugs, and players generously helped themselves to these peds.

Bary Bonds, Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa (Before and after pictures - notice a difference?)

However, it all came to a head this past week as Hall of Fame votes were taken on players who played during this era.  The all-time home run leader was on the ballot, two players who hit over 60 home runs in a season were on the ballot and a pitcher who won 342 games was on the ballot.  When the votes were counted and the dust settled, not one of those players was elected to the HOF.  The vote became a condemnation of players who either by admission or by association cheated the game by using peds.  There is plenty of blame to be shared:  Fans who turned out in droves to see these towering home runs, owners who financially reaped wealth and players who had cheated.  The biggest blame lies at the feet on the Players Union.  They were given a sacred trust:  To look after the best interest of the players.  Rather than look out for the best interest of the players in the long run, they chose to be self-serving for a short term fix.  Now, every player who played during the "Steroid Era" will appear guilty because the union wasn't committed to the future interests of the players.  That short-sighted view is now costing all the players who paid dues to this union to protect them.  The union needed to protect the players from making these bad choices by joining with the owners to enact tough peds policies and testing.

Rafael Palmeiro telling Congress he has NEVER taken peds four months before he tests positive for peds.  Donal Fehr, head of the MLB Players Union during negotiations - The man arguably most responsible for the HOF debacles now taking place on players who played during the Steroids Era.

One of the side-effects of this neglect is that no player can actually prove his innocence because there is no empirical evidence to back up their claims.  We have listened as players like Barry Bonds have excused their ped use with flimsy excuses of thinking what he used was flax seed oil or Mark McGwire saying he didn't want to talk about the past or Roger Clemens verbally attacking his accusers at a Congressional hearing or Sammy Sosa claiming he didn't know enough English to testify.  We have grown jaded by hearing players life Rafael Palmeiro vehemently deny his use of peds only to test positive lately.  Even outside the baseball world, we are waiting on Lance Armstrong tearful confession to the use of peds to Oprah this week.  Many people have said Craig Biggio should have been elected to HOF because he didn't use peds.  My question to them is, how do you know he didn't use peds?  There is no proof that he didn't.  If peds were as pervasive in MLB club houses as Jose Canseco says, what proof do you have that he didn't use peds?  He may very well be innocent, but he is in a bind because of a foolish choice by his union.

Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros

This becomes a real life parable to the church about the choices we make.  As followers of Christ, the choices we make in the moment will affect our future.  If we choose to compromise now, we will have pain later.  I believe the Church in America has been making bad choices in the short-term.  We have chosen to act just like the world.  We have the same issues in the Church (Divorce, living together, lying, embezzlement, etc.) that are in the world.  We have also compromised the message of the Gospel by the methods we have used to bring people into the Church.  We have spent more time surveying the needs of the community and trying to have non-threatening campaigns to draw the unchurched in.  We have built a dependence on the performance of the band, the "timely" preaching of the pastor and the latest technology to entice those outside the Church to come inside.  The methods have become the driving force of the church rather than holy living.  We think people will be attracted to our coffee kiosks, our kid's ministries, our incredible praise band or our hip/cool pastor who preaches messages which won't offend the "user".  Eventually the chickens come home to roost, you have to pay the piper, you have to lie in the bed you made, you were barking up the wrong tree, you will find it's not all that it's cracked up to be and it has rained on your parade!

Herein lies the problem:  Those who are lost could care less about these things.  They want to see transformed lives.  They want to see the love of Christ being lived out in reality.  They want to see marriages which are thriving.  They want to see friends who deeply care about them.  They want to see people of different races and different ages and different socio-economic standings loving, serving and helping each other.  They want to see people who are as passionate about righteous living as they are singing the latest praise song.  The performance of the Church on Sunday morning is not nearly as important as the performance of the Church on Monday morning:  When the school bell rings, when we clock in at work or when we spend time with our families and friends.  But, alas, our culture sees our Church leaders leading the church to short-term choices which cause long-term destruction.

So the 2013 Challenge for Hillcrest Baptist Church is one word:  "Discern".  The definition of discern is taken from Hosea 14:9 and is two-fold:  (1)  Discern means to understand God's ways and (2) to walk in His ways.  If we don't include both aspects in our lives, we are rebellious.  Read the Hosea passage and you will see it from God's own hand.  We need to discern and make decisions that will benefit the Kingdom of Christ in the long-term.  Yes, that usually means we have to make some serious changes in the short-term.  To discern means to evaluate our living situation in light of God's ways and His Word.  To discern means to evaluate our choices in light of God's ways and His Word.  Anything else is rebellion.  If you would like to hear the entire challenge on-line, you can go to our web page at  Since the 1850's, there has not been a time when the Church in American needs to be discerning as today.  More compromise and sin-justifying theology is not needed.  We need to understand God's ways and then walk in those ways.  If you are a member of Hillcrest and are willing to take the challenge, make sure you sign up at the altar.  If you are not in this area, but would like to take the challenge and have me pray for you this year, please send me an e-mail and I will add your name to the list.  May this be a year where you make the tough decisions which will call for sacrifice now, but blessings in the future.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Procrastination Pain

Most of us were weary of hearing about the "fiscal cliff".  Most rational Americans knew that the elected officials would reach some type of last minute deal with each side claiming some type of victory.  Though the President and Congress had two years to work on this, they waited until the last minute.  The President even took off on a vacation to Hawaii while this "disaster" was still a possibility and as soon as it was over, he flew back to Hawaii to continue his vacation.  Sadly, this activity by our officials in Washington DC has become a staple of American life.  We have become a nation of procrastination, putting off what needs to be done until the last minute.


Now, if you got tired of hearing about the "Fiscal cliff" just wait for two more months when the debate over the national debt will hit the big time.  All the President and Congress really did was put off difficult choices for two more months.  Isn't it amazing that the fiscal cliff was scheduled to happen AFTER the November elections?  I'm not trying to sound cynical, but our government leaders have become driven by reelection, not by what benefits our country.  The debt ceiling discussions will probably be more heated than the fiscal cliff discussions were.  So enjoy the two months break before we have to listen to more politicking, arguing, newscasts and squabbling before another last minute deal is done.  This deal will once again, put off facing this national debt crisis, which will eventually destroy our country.  The President and Congress will try to assure us that everything is wonderful because America can now borrow more money (But there will be no substantive cuts made in spending).  The national debt has grown in every presidency since Gerald Ford, so this goes beyond party lines.  Below are the deficits at the end of each President's term.  Presidents who were reelected will have two lines:
Ford                653,544,000,000
Carter              930,210,000,000
Reagan         1,662,966,000,000
GH Bush      4,177,009,000,000
Clinton         5,323,171,750,783
GW Bush     7,596,165,867,424
Obama       16,443,486,609,000

This inability to control spending goes across party lines.  Senator Barak Obama in a speech on the Senate floor in 2006, was opposed to raising the debt limit to $9 trillion for a Republican President and said this:  "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."  Wonderful words, but once he became President, he was very comfortable with increasing the debt of our country more than the total debt of Presidents Ford through Clinton.  Our political system is set up for failure in dealing with long-term issues which are critical for the success of our country.


Eventually, we will have to deal with this incredible debt by making massive cuts to our spending or there will be an implosion which will rock our country beyond repair.  In most families, once we have maxed out our credit, the banks don't raise our limit.  The banks make us pay off what we owe. If we can't pay, they begin to repossess whatever we have of value.  Our families have to change habit and eat top ramen noodles instead of going out for steak.  We have to tell our children that we can't afford anything but the basics.  We make dramatic changes in our lifestyle to pay off our debts.  However, our Presidents and Congresses have been unable to do that.  They fear losing reelection if they make people go without all that was promised to them.  And so, we find ourselves in this mess which will bring irreparable damage to our country.  Each new President and Congress simply procrastinate rather than dealing with the root issue.  So the pain of procrastination builds.  Of course, those who vote must shoulder much of the blame because we keep electing the same people to those positions.  Obviously, the American people are comfortable with this massive debt and putting off dealing with it until there is a huge meltdown that cannot be changed.

The way our country is handling our debt should stand in stark contrast to the life of the follower of Christ.  II Timothy 1:7 tells us, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of love, power and self-discipline."  Though others around us lack self-discipline, God gives us the Holy Spirit who brings this discipline into our lives.  We know responsibility because the Holy Spirit leads us in that direction.  So we are able to get up early each morning to spent time alone with God, praying and studying His Word in preparation for the day.  We are able to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regimen.  We are able to work hard at our jobs and be productive whether our human boss is watching or not.  We are able to listen to our parents and obey them with respect.  We are able to make time each day to be with our children and involved in their lives.  We are able to not use credit cards which wrack up debt, but pay off our bills each month.  We are able to speak kind words to others, even those who have nasty things to say to us.  We have become the antithesis of our elected officials because of the Holy Spirit.

So as you approach this new year, don't approach it with fear.  Approach it with anticipation.  Allow God to show you the areas in your life which are lacking self-discipline and dedicate those areas to Him.  Let the Holy Spirit give you the self-discipline you need.  

Today at the gym, it happened again.  The "resolution" crowd has shown up.  Of the fifteen men in the locker room I saw as I was leaving, only three of them were familiar.  These folks are either new members who have decided it is time to get in shape or they are older members who decided that since they were paying for membership to the gym they may as well use the gym.  We will see how they last because it usually takes until mid-February for the crowd to thin back out again.  I pray that you won't be one of those in the "resolution" crowd, but you will allow Christ to change your life in 2013.  Don't let the pain of  procrastination become a part of your life, but live in the joy of God's self-discipline.  And when you begin to hear politicians ranting and raving about the debt limit/ceiling, may it reminds you to allow God's Holy Spirit to give you self-discipline so you won't find yourself in the same painful situation as our country.