Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Wind at My Back

I've never sailed on the ocean in a sailboat, but I would surely like to. Although I've not sailed, I know that there is way of sailing into the wind, a process known as 'tacking'. It is a technique whereby the boat uses the head wind to quarter right and then left whilst gaining ground slightly. I can relate to that. Sometimes life requires us to sail into the wind. It can be done with lots of effort and fortitude.

it is an entirely different and wonderful matter when the wind blows directly at ones back. The sailing is smooth and the pace is swift across the 'pond'. All the captain need do is set a course then rare back and enjoy the ride! It must be sheer bliss to ride with such favor.

The children of Israel knew the blessing of God in unprecedented fashion. God caused their clothes to be such that they did not wear out. God gave them food and water in miraculous fashion. Their enemies were already defeated before they arrived at their fortified positions. The wind was at their backs!

Today was such a day for me. Our church has recently voted to do a serious re-model project that will further enhance our ability to minister. So exciting! Today was a 'snow day' at church. A lot of people were not there because of the weather. Yet we had an amazing group of people there. First time guests were in the Guest Center and God was in the house. We had 17 wonderful people in our 1st Discovery Dinner (New Members Class) of the year. Two different miracles have happened this week with regard to people being sent to help with our remodel project. God sent them right on time. This evening after church I have met up with three people (and families) that are being 'drawn' and are showing interest in New LIfe! Just amazing! I call it favor. Whatever it feels like the wind at my back! I have to tell is a great feeling! I know there will be more days of 'tacking' ahead. But for now, I'm just gonna enjoy what God is doing. Ahhhhhhhhh! Thank you Lord!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Real Reason We Root!

All it takes is to walk into a room where a ballgame is playing on TV, and in mere minutes I will be rooting for one of the teams. Perhaps I am more competitive than some, but I've a feeling most men and a good number of women enjoy taking a side and vicariously competing on the court, or field of play.

So how is it we come to pull for a team? Most of the time, for me at least, it boils down to such matters as rooting for whoever is losing, b/c I like to pull for the underdog. Or, if I don't have a clue about either team, perhaps my instantaneous loyalty is due to whichever team is closer to my part of the country, or whether they are from the East or West. (usually pull for the Western team) Sometimes our rooting is due to a distant relative who may have gone to one of the schools competing, whether or not they graduated or not. At the lowest level, rooting may depend on which team has the coolest looking uniform.

While our team of choice in sports makes little difference, let me use this idea as a backdrop for how some folks support (or not) their church. It is my feeling that there should be a deep loyalty to ones place of worship. Since every church has areas of strength and areas of weakness, good points and bad points, it amazing how folks change loyalty like picking an unknown team playing on the TV in your living room.

Real loyalty pulls for a church because of important things like it being the right thing to do, like propagating a heritage for their children, like having pride in a place that is so valuable to their community and the list goes on. However, humans often are short sighted. Rooting for or against their church, their leadership can be as fickle as the color of trim on the pew. Some wind up being enemies of their own church b/c they've become fixated on small, insignificant things. I have heard folks say, "Well, I'm gonna go to another church 'cause I just like their music." I want to say...what about your children having stability and learning faithfulness. What about teaching your kids that it's fine to just walk out and leave the church in a lurch so you can get your 'flavor' of music, preaching, big screen event, etc.

I just want to put in the hearts of people the need to root for your home team. Do it for all the right reasons. When we are all rooting for the right reasons, it will do a lot for the church. It's more than the trappings. Root from the heart!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Correct Change

Ok...a little play on words here. All of us have purchased something and had the cashier return to us incorrect change, whether too much or too little. It causes problems on both ends. For the merchant it will be impossible to balance b/c the cash drawer will either be an overage or a shortage. For the person receiving the incorrect change...if it was a shortage to them, they are due some refund...or it they were given too much, assuming they are honest and catch the mistake, they have the hassle of returning the money. Let me tell you now about the importance of correct change in another sense.

Change....and not the kind that jingles in your pocket...happens to us all. There are changes of every size and sort on virtually every level of life. Changes happen in our jobs, our relationships, our churches, our government and on and on. Let's focus on the change of relationship which, in effect, affects each of these aforementioned areas. When relationships change, it is sometimes for the better but is most often, and most notable, when it is for the worse. It is at these moments of change when we often render 'incorrect change'. Let's take a look at how we most often make mistakes during relational transitions.

1. Blame Game: Almost without exception change occurs with someone pointing fingers, and perhaps rightfully so. Yet, it is rare that transitional experiences happen with a fair hearing from both sides. Fair says, "Most likely both sides have some egg on their face." To blame one for it all is wrong 99.9% of the time. Usually those wanting to blame, never take a good look in the mirror. Heaping blame up so high concerning others, so that you can hide your own mistakes is not really dealing with the problem at hand. This is incorrect change.

2. Sidestepping: To sidestep is to avert attention from what is really going on to something else. In marriages often a mate wanting out because of their own selfish reasons will not address those reasons, but instead speak of how terrible the other person talks to them, keeps house, will not provide, watches too much sports, leaves their socks in the floor....etc. I learned something from a wise man. In disputes, the 'issue' is never the real issue. It is akin to building a 'bigger fire' so the little fire, the one that is really the problem is overlooked or seems insignificant. This is incorrect change.

3. Secret Agency: Any transitional experience that is not accomplished under the light of due process is suspect. Meetings formulated on a one on one, "don't tell anyone but..." situations are dangerous. Lies multiply in rapid succession in a dark environment, like mold in the basement. Correct change is change that is properly discussed, faced before righteous accountability and moved forward in and orderly sequence.

4. Avoidance: Finally, for one to completely ignore their wrong-doing is tantamount to deceit. When we 'confess' our sins we find forgiveness. For us to hide our sins, as Achan did when he stole the gold & garments of Babylon, we risk a continual, systemic infection of bitterness and strife. I've seen it destroy people from the inside out. Like a cancer on the inside, one can only act like it doesn't exist for so long. Then one day....your color changes, your strength fails and your sickness takes over.

Be reminded that those who are willing to move ahead with correct and righteous motives, actions and processes will be given...correct change. Those who don't, will suffer the consequences. If you discover incorrect change....walk back into the 'store' and square it up. You will sleep better tonight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Grace and the High Wire

Watching footage of a high-wire walker makes me nervous. It is the risk involved that draws the crowds. I recall seeing pictures of such a person walking on a thin wire over Niagra Falls. Gracious! Either the person is nuts...or they have an extreme amount of confidence in what they are doing. The second option must be the case.

Common to each 'walker' is a long balance pole in hand. The pole is lightly weighted on the ends so that the slightest tipping of the pole can hold the walker's balance in the middle of that wire they are walking. I can't think of a single wire-walker that walks without this balance pole. It seems to be a tool of necessity for survival.

If you will allow me, I'd like to think of Grace as that pole, and our walk with the Lord as being the walk on the wire. From the ground, an altogether earthly view, walking the high-wire seems near impossible. In fact, I have heard men express, "I don't go to church because I could never be good enough." "I'm too much of a sinner to ever be a Christian." It does seem difficult from the carnal mind. When one considers "...straight is the gate and narrow is the way and few their be that find it...", one gives pause to even trying at all. This is where Grace comes into hand.

Grace is the 'pole' of possibility which allows us to do the seemingly impossible. Remember, "With God all things are possible." Really! Drug addicts have the hope of one day living free of addiction. The immoral can have total deliverance to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Evil men, can become kind, charitable men. Women depressed and lonely can find peace and help through Grace.

So what is Grace? Grace is the tool of balance with weight on each end of the spectrum. One one end is legalism. That is to assume whatever tight-rope walking will be done, will have to be done on your own power. You'll have to be good enough to keep your balance. You will have to never mis-step, mis-speak, always look just right, comply with someone's manual of ideal's, etc. On the other end of the balance of Grace is the idea that one cannot fail, that eternity is secure no matter what I do or say or act, that I can live a sloppy Christian life and God won't care. This is why Paul asked, "Shall we continue in sin that Grace may abound?" Then he emphatically answered, "God forbid!" For nobody can walk without knowing how to handle Grace. Ladies and gentlemen, this comprises the 'pole' or the tool of balance. You cannot walk the high-wire by holding this tool at either end. Attempting to do so would make one even more vulnerable to the fall.

We must conclude then that our safety is found in grasping this Grace right in the middle. There, you will find a solid balance...not too loose, not too tight...not too left, not too right! God expects us to live right, but He asked us to 'strive' for perfection. Living life in the middle is the key. It is about keeping your balance. Some days we lean a little too far to either extreme. Does this mean God is ready to send us hurling from the high road, straight in to hell? A thousand times no! All we need do is to tip the pole slightly in the opposite direction. And when our balance is found, level off and continue walking.

This is what Grace is all about. Now...go get on the high-wire, do the impossible and watch the crowds stand in awe.