Monday, May 20, 2013

A Heritage

On March 5, 1836, the army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna launched an assault against a small mission near San Antonio, Texas.  He was seeking to destroy the rebellion of Texans to start their own country.  His first two assaults were driven back, but on his third attempt his forces overran the defenses and killed every defenders.  When news of this slaughter spread across Texas and into the United States, a cry went out to fight for the cause of Texas.  The battle cry for the rest of the war for Texas Independence was "Remember the Alamo".  This eventually led to the Republic of Texas being formed after the Texans defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto on April 21 of that same year.

On February 15, 1898 in Havana Harbor, the USS Maine exploded and sank quickly, killing three quarters of the crew.  The ship had been in the harbor to protect United States interests in Cuba due to tensions with Spain.  The rally cry, "Remember the Maine" propelled the United States into a ten week war with Spain.  The results were devastating to Spain as she lost her colonial authority over Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam bringing a collapse to the Spanish Empire.  For America, it projected her as a dominant world power moving the the center of the world stage. 

On December 7, 1941, forces from the Empire of Japan attacked American naval and armed forced station on the territory of Hawaii.  Over 350 Japanese airplanes descended on American forces and sunk four battle ships, seven other ships, 188 aircraft were destroyed and 2,402 people were killed.  The shock and horror of this attack propelled the United States into World War II.  This day of infamy catapulted the Americans into a full response against the Axis powers.  The battle cry of "Remember Pearl Harbor" was used at enlistment campaigns, USO shows, war bond sales and to encourage men in battle.  Even after VE Day on May 8th, 1945, the war against Japan would continue until August 6 of that same year.  "Remember Pearl Harbor" was a reminder that until Japan unconditionally surrendered, there was no victory.

These three serves as examples of times when our past has a direct impact on our future.  We are called to action by those things which have happened in the past.  On Sunday, the Hillcrest Baptist Church family had a wonderful reminder of our past and how it impacts our present and future as Raymond and Jane Haynes were at our church.  For those of you who do not know them, they served at Hillcrest from 1992-1995.  Raymond served as pastor and helped move the church in the direction God was leading her.  They sacrificed, loved and served this church family.  Many of the members who were here during that time have died or moved away, but the Haynes help lay a foundation for the effective ministry Hillcrest has today.  They are a part of our future which affects our present and future.

In John 2031, the Apostle John writes this to us, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name."  John reminds us at the end of his Gospel that the purpose of his writing was that we might believe and have eternal life.  I am often surprised by how many Christians look at the Bible as a book of myths or pithy saying, but not really factual.  They struggle with the areas of the Bible with which they disagree, so they minimize those parts because those parts don't fit into the latest world view.  But John does not allow us the freedom to do that since he tells us in 21:24 that what he has written is true.  In John's day, there was a heresy that said Jesus didn't physically rise from the dead, but only rose spiritually.  John refutes that by listing times when Jesus ate, touched and wept, which are things that only take place in the physical realm.  John passing on a legacy to us as an eye witness to Jesus.  He wants us to believe in Jesus and by believing, we will receive eternal life.  He knew that eternal life was gift which was given by God through Jesus.  No amount of good living could earn it for ourselves.  Jesus became the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Remember, John was the Beloved Disciple, one of the Sons of Thunder and the last living Apostle.  His words cry out to us as a heritage of faith to be passed on to the following generations.

Today, the Church is tempted to live as a defeated opponent or one who has been marginalized in our country.  The temptation is to try and make the Church "relevant" in today's world by changing the church to take on the look of the world.  We are tempted to learn about successful businesses and incorporate those practices into the Church.  We are tempted to look at fast-growing cults and imitate what they are doing.  We are tempted to look at the hyper-changing values of our culture and adopt those values into the Church by "tweaking" the Bible to make it say something it doesn't really say.  What the Church should be doing is what John encouraged us to do:  Believe in Jesus and allow this belief to infect every aspect of our living.  If we would allow Jesus to transform our lives, those in our culture would be drawn to Jesus and eternal life.  That should be our heritage, not one of compromise, surrender or antagonism.  What heritage are you leaving today?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Versatile in our faith and service?

This past Saturday, my son's baseball team had a road game in Pittsburgh which is thirty minutes from our home.  One of our best and most versatile players was not able to make it to the game.  Kyle can play any position well and is the bats second in the line-up, so he would be missed.  The coach changed the batting order by moving Thaddeus up to the number two spot from his usual number five spot.  That is a lot more pressure, but he handled the pressure by going 3 for 5 with a single, double, triple and three RBIs.  He also put the ball in play on his other two at bats.  He started the game at his usual spot, catcher and played there for three innings.  But the coach moved him to shortstop in the fourth inning, a position had has not played nor practiced this year.  In the final inning, he started at first base and played there for the first two outs.  The pitcher began to have control issues and walked six batters while only getting two outs.  So the coach put Thaddeus in at pitcher, knowing that there was no one else on the team who could pitch since we had used all of our pitchers up already.  Thaddeus threw four pitches, three of which were strikes.  So he struck out the final hitter to end the game.  Thaddeus played four positions and had to hit in a pressure spot in the line-up and was brought in to close the game.  He showed his versatility during this game.  As a father, I was proud of my son - Not because he had played well, but because he had earned the confidence of his coach.  His coach is fantastic and is one of the best coaches in our league.  He doesn't put a player in a position unless he is confident that player can handle that position.  Thaddeus has worked hard throughout this season and been willing to do whatever was needed to help the team.  This had made him versatile, which built the coach's confidence in him. 

Before you think I am simply bragging on my son (Which I am...a little), I began to think about the lessons I could learn from this game.  As I was reflecting on the game in the first few minutes after it ended, I began to wonder how versatile I am in serving the Lord.  I thought back to the days of my youth when God was calling me into the ministry.  I told Him that I was willing to serve and do whatever He long as I didn't have to be a pastor.  The pressure of that position and the unrealistic expectations people have of pastors just scared me to no end.  I didn't want to have to deal with people having unexpressed expectations of perfection and I certainly didn't want to run a business meeting at church.  I had seen enough of people playing power games in the church to jade me for life.  Fast forward to being 29 years old and serving as the Campus Minister (Director of Christian Activities was the official title) at Hawaii Baptist Academy.  A church on the Big Island had expressed an interest in me being their pastor.  At the time, I was single, you and had no experience as pastor, so I felt fairly safe in knowing that no church would ever want me as their pastor.  However, one Monday afternoon, my phone rang.  Without answering the phone, I already knew what the call was about.  Has that ever happened to you?  I knew it was someone from the pastor search committee of that church and I gave thought to not answering the phone (This was before caller ID).  I answered the phone and, sure enough, it was the chairman of the pastor search committee.  Now I was faced with what I told God I never wanted to do.  I was faced with the struggle of being a pastor.  The question really came down to obedience.  I certainly had no experience and little training to be a pastor.  I certainly didn't fit the mold of a pastor.  I certainly was thrilled to be serving where I was serving.  BUT what did God want me to do.  God wanted me to be versatile.  He wanted me to step up and do something that was way beyond my comfort zone.  And so I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit to become the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waimea.

On Saturday, as I remembered my call to FBC Waimea, I began to think about how versatile I was now.  I am a person who isn't the most flexible.  I have my schedule and daily list.  I get focused on those things and I grind it out.  There are a lot of things I may not be, but one thing you can count on with me - I am predictable.  Unfortunately, I often bring that mindset to service and allow myself to be inflexible.  Under the guise of being disciplined, I miss opportunities to serve in ways that stretch me.  I like being comfortable and don't like getting pushed outside that zone.  As I reflected on Thaddeus' play, I realized that God was showing me how I need to have my eyes more open to His leading and a willingness to do that my Coach tells me to do.

The definition of versatile is "capable of doing many things competently".  That may be a good sports definition, it misses the mark when reflecting on faith and service.  Being versatile in our service means "capable of letting God utilize you to do whatever He leads you to".  We have never been called to competency (Although we should never use this as an excuse to not strive for being competent in every aspect of service), we have been called to faithfulness.  I have often found that God leads us to opportunities which are beyond our abilities.  Paul put this into perspective in I Corinthians 2,when he says, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

So what and were is God leading you?  Are you versatile and ready for a new adventure?  Are you willing to do something which you have no competency, but only the power of the Holy Spirit?  Learn the lesson from an eight year old and play the position in which THE Coach puts you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Lesson on Dedication

Back in January, my son started his Spring baseball season by going to an evaluation day.  The coaches of his age group then got together and had a draft.  We knew who our coach was going to be because I was planning to assist him, which meant Thaddeus had to be on his team.  We began practice in mid-February and have played twelve games so far.  Our season will continue until until the beginning of June, but an All-Star team has already been selected.  This team practices three times a week and will play in four tournaments during the Summer, practicing when they don't play.  Our coach is assisting with the All-Star team which means he is in Rodeo for baseball five days a week.  Once we begin to play teams in San Pablo, he will be here six days a week.  That may not seem like much until I tell you that he lives and works in San Francisco.  That means, he makes the drive to and from the City five times a week to coach baseball and work with these kids.  He is a fantastic coach and Thaddeus has really improved this season under his coaching.  I am amazed at the level of dedication the coach has to the kids because he get paid a big, fat nothing to do all of this.  He is simply a volunteer who loves to see kids do well with baseball.

This past weekend, our team traveled to Pittsburgh for an away game and it struck me at the level of drive and commitment Thaddeus' coach has.  During my quiet times the past two days, God has been speaking to me about my own commitment to Him.  Here I have an example of someone who is not saved, but willing to sacrifice so much of himself, and I compare that with how little sacrifice I am willing to make.  I easily get discouraged or find reasons to not visit someone or pray or prepare more diligently.  I wonder what the Church would look like if all members of Hillcrest were as committed to Christ as this coach is committed to baseball and kids.  How would our church be different?  How would our community be different?  I think about the lives which would be touched with the Gospel and the impact our faithfulness would have on those around us.  Instead, many today seem to see Church and serving the Lord as something which we do when nothing will interfere with that commitment.  But the moment our family plans a party or we don't get enough sleep on Saturday night or the sermon goes longer than we would like, we drop church.  We sleep in, even when we are scheduled to be involved in an area of service.  We go to that gathering or that ball game because, after all, "It's only one Sunday".  

Where are you willing to serve?  What sacrifices are you willing to make because of your commitment to Christ and others?  What does your church service and support look like?  Are we a good example of commitment to those around us.  Jesus reminded us in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."  Who is your master?  Let's learn a lesson on dedication from this baseball coach and passionately serve the Lord, His Church and our church family!