Monday, June 30, 2014

The Call to Serve

This past Sunday, Hillcrest Baptist church enjoyed a milestone event as Herbert Aromin was ordained into the deacon ministry.  Why would anyone want to be a deacon?  Well, if the truth be known, the ones who deac well don't really want to be deacons.  They haven't gone looking for this office.  They have simply been faithful servants in the church who are growing in their faith.  The church recognized this and felt led by God to ask them to serve as deacon.  Herbert didn't ask to be made a deacon and he actually declined serving as a deacon for a couple of years.  Finally, he felt like he had been using excuses rather than stepping up as a deacon.  So, he left it in God's hands and allowed himself to be nominated.  He went through a process of being questioned by our active deacons and then was brought before an ordination council made up of many different ordained men.  This council felt he was qualified and recommended him to be ordained as a deacon.  So on Sunday, we had the privilege of ordaining Herbert Aromin into the deacon ministry.  This doesn't change who he is or what he does:  He will still serve as he has been doing ever since he joined the church.  however, he will now have added responsibility in that service.

Hillcrest expects her deacons to serve.  They do such important functions as opening/closing the church for ministries and events, opening/closing the gates to our parking lots, coming to the church if the alarm company calls, visiting with the pastor, staying in contact with our church members, preparing the Lord's Supper, preparing and cleaning the baptistery and are always the first ones I call when a thankless job needs to be done.  They even have to miss some of the worship service to patrol the parking lot, making sure that our vehicles are safe and sound.  Deacon is not a position of authority but one of service.  We expect our deacons to set the example for the rest of the church.  So after every fellowship or meal we have in the church, the deacons are the ones who sweep, mop and lock up after the event.  They serve in a multitude of ways that most folks in the church never see or notice, unless the deacons forget to do it.

Jesus has an expectation of His followers:  He expects us to be servants.  Matthew 20 says, "24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus has never measured greatness by a bank account, political power, popularity or possessions.  He has measured greatness by service without seeking recognition.  He set the example for us on the cross as He gave His life as a ransom for us.  So He has every right to expect service from His followers.

I am constantly amazed at people who want to meet Jesus on their own terms, not on His.  They want the benefits of following Jesus without the costs of following Jesus.  They have a convenient faith.  They are all about Jesus when they need Him, but they don't want to hear about service, sacrifice and dedication.  They want the church to meet their needs, but they never serve anyone in the church.  They rarely come to church, but when they are in the hospital, they expect the church leaders to know and show up to visit them.  They get bent out of shape when the church doesn't meet their needs.  They come every Sunday, asking for help with something else in their lives, yet rarely have they ever come to church and asked others how they could help them.  They have an immature and self-centered faith and view of the church.  They become more of a burden to the church than an asset to the church.  I have little time or use for those who have this attitude, but I love being around people who enjoy serving.  I like hanging out with them because I know I will get the opportunity to serve with them.  They push me out of my comfort zone in asking me to help meet the needs of others.  They never drain me, but they enthuse me. 

I am grateful to serve in a church with a lot of servants, whether they are officially deacons or not.  As example of that attitude is the fellowship after Herbert's ordination:  The people of Hillcrest provided a feast, even though we talked about having a light snack.  One of our members even brought his own fryer so he could fry these incredible treats.  Another member rolled and cooked lumpia.  All of the food tables showed the love and service of the Hillcrest members.  I love being a part of a church with servants.  Even as I write this on Monday morning at 7:45, one of our members has been here since 7:00 repairing some dry wall in one of our classrooms.  Thanks for living out the call of Jesus to serve.

For those of you not involved in Hillcrest:  How's your service?  In your church, have you found a place to serve and been one of the unseen servants or are you sitting back and letting others do the work?  Follow the example of Herbert and Jesus....Serve!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Try to Hide It

Many people have heard about Watergate, but many have no idea what Watergate really was.  The Watergate was a hotel and office complex that housed the Democratic National Convention during the 1972 election.  Then President Richard Nixon was seeking re-election against George McGovern.  Nixon ordered that wire taps be placed into the DNC offices and so G. Gordon Liddy and John Dean orchestrated the break-in.  During the Watergate hearings, it was revealed that President Nixon had recordings of all White House conversations, something many presidents had done.  However, he did not manually control the recordings like other presidents had done.  His recordings were voice activated, so he did not have control.  Most White House staff members and the general public had no idea that this had been happening.  These tapes could hold recordings as to whether Nixon ordered the Watergate break-ins or not.  However, the most critical tape had 18 1/2 minutes erased from it.  This gap was during a meeting of Nixon and his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman.  Haldeman's own notes from the meeting mentioned discussing the Watergate affair, but the tapes had been erased.  So the hearing were never able to produce a connection of Nixon to the ordering of the break-ins.  With many calls for impeachment, Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency in August of 1974.  The irony of Watergate is that Nixon soundly defeated McGovern and had nothing to fear in regards to the election.  Trying to hide his bad choices led to his downfall and disgrace.

Fast forward to the election of 2012 and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.  President Barak Obama stated when the story first broke that it was simply a rogue agent in Ohio who had done this.  However, as more facts have come out, it is obvious that this was a much wider plan to target critics of the President.  Enter Lois Lerner, a Director of the IRS, who was brought before a hearing of Congress to determine what had happened and who was responsible.  During the hearings, she invoked the 5th Amendments and refused to answer any questions.  However, e-mails have been subpoenaed by Congress and guess what?  Most of her e-mails cannot be found, have been deleted and are missing.  Sound familiar?  Perhaps the proof showing the President not only know about, but ordered these actions has been "lost".  What will happen with this drama and how will it play out?  I doubt it will lead to impeachment hearings nor Obama's resignation because the standard of honesty and integrity is so low for our leaders today.  However, Obama's legacy will always be surrounded by this scandal, much as Nixon's legacy is surrounded by Watergate.

Why do we try to hide our sins and shortcomings?  Any parent can list the numerous occasions in which they caught their children red-handed and their children vehemently denied any wrong doing.  The more the children lied and tried to cover things up, the more upset parents became.  It hurts to see our children lie and then try to hide what they have done.  We would much rather have our kids own up to it and take responsibility.

I guess this is just part of our fallen nature.  Remember Adam and Eve?  When they disobeyed God, what did they do?  They hid themselves from God.  A relationship that once had been so pure and right, had now been corrupted by bad choices.  Okay, it was corrupted by sin.   It's been happening ever since because we all sin.  Some people try to avoid the consequences by denying there is a God or by thinking a loving God would never punish His creation.  But deep down, we know something is wrong in our lives.  Some people try to avoid the consequences by blaming others.  Some people try to avoid the consequences by avoiding the topic.  Some people try to avoid the consequences by numbing themselves through alcohol, pot, drugs or anti-depressants.  But none of that works.  The pain just eats away at us from the inside out.

Our model needs to be David.  David was far from perfect and he sinned by sleeping with a married woman and then having her husband conveniently die in battle.  He thought he had gotten away with it and he had hidden his sin until Nathan confronts him.  When David realizes that no sin is ever hidden from God, he is broken and driven to his knees in pain and repentance.  It is out of this anguish that he prays Psalm 51.  In verse 3, he says this incredible message of responsibility, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me."  He takes responsibility for his sin and then asks for God's forgiveness.

God doesn't want us to pretend we are perfect people.  He doesn't want us to deny or minimize our sin.  He wants us to be honest about our choices, our lies, our sins and own up to what we have done.  He waits with forgiveness, grace and cleansing, although we will still have to face the consequences of our sin.  So today, rather than try to hide what is wrong, how about some deep, gut-wrenching honesty before God.  I promise, you will experience and joy and peace more profound than any you have ever had before!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Big Fundamental

Last night, the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the Miami Heat to win a fifth NBA championship since Tim Duncan was drafter by them in 1998.  The teamwork of San Antonio was too much for the talent of South Beach, leading to blow outs in the four games the Spurs won.  Tim Duncan (From Wake Forest, of course) is the cornerstone of that team.  He has even taken less pay so the management could keep the team in tact and add better players.  His nickname is "The Big Fundamental" because his basic skills are solid.  What sets Duncan apart from many other outstanding players in the NBA today is that he stayed four years at Wake Forest rather than turning pro early.  Since his Sophomore year at Wake Forest, he was pressured to turn professional because he would have been a high draft pick.  However, Duncan stayed in school, graduated from Wake Forest and was the number 1 pick in the 1998 draft.  He wanted to stay at Wake Forest to earn a degree and because he felt like he still needed to learn more basketball before going to the NBA.  It seems to have worked:  He has been an All-Star fourteen years, Rookie of the Year, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and the only player to be named to the All-NBA teams and All-Defensive team in his first thirteen seasons.  He has created the Tim Duncan Foundation to raise general health awareness and fund education and youth sports in various parts of the United States.  His personal motto is a nursery rhyme his mother taught him, "Good, Better, Best. Never let it rest / Until your Good is Better, and your Better is your Best." 

Most of you probably know of Tim Duncan, even if you are not a sports fan.  Do you know any of the names on this list?  Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis, Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis, Korleone Young, Lamar Odom, Jonathan Bender, Corey Maggette, Leon smith, Darious Miles, DerMarr Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Donnell Harvey, DeShawn Stevenson, Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Eddie Griffin, DeSagna Diop, Rodney White, Gerald Wallace, Omar Cook, Ousmane Cisse, Alston Ford, Dajuan Wagner, Amare Stoudamire, Qyntel Woods and Jamal Sampson.  Do you know what all of these people share in common.  These are all basketball players who were drafted between the years 1998 through 2001 who either were drafted in the NBA right our of high school or only played one year of college.  A couple of these have been NBA All-stars, but none has had a career that comes remotely close to matching Tim Duncan.  Can you imagine how much better these men would have been had they gone to college for four years?  They could have walked away with college degrees, which would have provided opportunities beyond basketball.  They could have refined their skills under a much less glaring light in college.  They could have naturally matured into young men rather than having the pressure of notoriety and money thrown at them too early in life.  I just wonder how much better their NBA and post-NBA careers would have been had they approached college the same way as Tim Duncan.  Unfortunately, we will never know.  We also will never hear about or see the vast number of young men who declare for the NBA straight out of high school or after their freshman year of college who never get drafted or play a minute in an NBA game.  All of these players are good enough to have earned a college scholarship, but none of them took total advantage of that opportunity.

(Qyntel Woods on draft day 2002)

Learning fundamentals is the key to being successful in life.  Rarely do we stumble upon something in our foolishness and it bring success in our lives.  This applies to sports, finances, a career and even our faith in Christ.  If we look at Saul (Who later changed his name to Paul), we see how this plays out in our faith.  In Acts 9:19-26, we see that immediately after his conversion, the disciples in Damascus disciple and trained him, even though he was already a very learned man.  Then he went to Jerusalem where he joined the Apostles after Barnabas intervened, when he received even more training.  Before moving on to do any mission work, he developed the fundamentals of his faith.  Because of that solid foundation, he became a powerful instrument of God's Spirit in the early years of the Church.

So how are you doing with learning the fundamentals of our faith?  I don't mean showing up to church because showing up for church does not insure maturity and growth.  It actually can lead to a false sense of security which will falter when put to the test.  Who has disciple you?  Who has taken you under his/her wing to insure that you learned the basics of the Christian faith?  Have you been walked through understanding the joy and discipline of studying the Bible?  Have you learned to pray?  Have you been challenged to tithe?  Has any trained, modeled and prepared you to share your faith?  The list goes on and on?  The Church in America is weak because she lacks fundamentals.  We buy into every lie our culture throws at us or pseudo-churches throw at us because we do not understand and apply the truth.  We don't not memorize Scripture.  We do not spend time in God's Word every day.  We do not approach life through the lens of prayer.  We do not have anyone in our lives who holds us accountable for our walk with Christ. So we easily fall for many of the deceptions Satan throws at us.  The word we often use is "discipleship", which means we are more than an observer, but we become a participant by learning from others who are more mature in the faith.  Being a disciple takes hard work and an attitude of humility, but the pay-off is well worth it.

For those who are a part of Hillcrest Baptist Church, we can offer you the opportunity to have this happen.  We have a six month ministry designed to move someone from young in the faith (No matter how long they have been a Christian) onto a path of maturity in their faith.  Six months will not make you mature, but it will give you the tools and the opportunity to begin that journey.  If you will enter into this journey and complete it, I guarantee you will never be the same.  You will become a much more effective instrument of God's plan than you ever thought you could be.  Six month may seem like a long time, but what you learn in those six months will propel you beyond where you would have been in six years doing what you are doing now.  So give me a call and let's get started on the journey of a life-time so you can become the Big Fundamental in your faith!