Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Tell Dad!!!

   While I can assure you that, without question, I took "stupid" to a whole new level with some of my stunts growing up, I also witnessed some amazing feats being accomplished by my siblings. The apple never falling too far from the tree, I'm quite certain that my parents went to bed on many nights wondering if there was something in the water that had severely damaged the thought process in the minds of their children.
   One such event took place when I was about 4 years old. My sister (Who will remain nameless in order to protect her identity.......After all, she's much smarter now) became very upset with my father. So upset, in fact, that she decided she was going to run away from home to teach him a lesson. She was just 5 years old at the time, it was in the middle of winter, and it was already dark outside. I'm not sure where she thought she might be going, or how long she could stay outside before she came back home to warm up, but darn it, she was going to teach him a lesson!!!
   She told me of her plan, then put some clothes in a bag, put her jacket on, and climbed on her dresser so she could reach the casement window in her bedroom. She cranked the window open as far as it would go with the crank handle, then looked back at me with a glare as she threw one leg over the window sill, saying "Don't tell Dad!!!" I could see that her facial expression changed a bit once she was sitting on the window sill with both feet hanging outside. She suddenly looked less sure of herself. Maybe it was the 6 foot drop into the snow below. Maybe it was the cold air. I can't be too sure. As the moment of truth arrived, she threw her bag of clothes out the window, then placed both hands on the sill and shoved herself off into the darkness.
   From my angle of view, it was clear that something had gone horribly wrong with her plan. I could hear grunting, and an occassional thud on the outside of the wall. I ran over and climbed up on her dresser to see what had happened. As it turned out, once she taken her leap of faith, the hood on her jacket had snagged itself on the crank handle of the casement window, and she had literally just hung herself. I poked my head out of the window to see if she was ok. Her little arms were flailing back and forth, and her body was bouncing off of the siding as she tried desperately to free herself, but her attempts to this point were fruitless. In her defiance (and I must admit that to this very day I still respect her commitment to the plan) she looked back at me and growled "Don't tell Dad!!"
   Of course, as much as I wanted to obey her wishes, I could see that if she was left to her own resources at this point, she was going to end up dead, or frozen to the siding, or both. It was clear to me that I had to do something quick. I ran and got my dad, who got up from his place on the sofa, walked into her room, reached out throught the window, and pulled her to safety, using just one of his giant arms. What I knew was that, no matter what I attempted to do to help her, my dad had both the knowledge and strength to rescue her in a second. All I had to do was ask.
   As Len was speaking last Sunday, he spoke about 1 Timothy 4:13-16, which was Paul's charge to Timothy, encouraging him to, above all, focus on the word and on his dedication to teaching the word.
   He also talked about our role in this, which was found in Hebrews 13:7-8. The NASB says: "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith."
   What is one way we can "Remember" them? I believe that the greatest thing we can do for the pastors in our churches is to pray for them, that they would be allowed to do as 1 Timothy 4:13-16 says. To focus on the word, and upon their clear teaching of the word. When they stand before us every Sunday morning, they are doing so in the faith that what has been revealed to them by God, through His word as they prepared the lesson they are teaching, will be used by God to inspire us and draw us more near to Him.
   On our part, we can 'imitate their faith" by praying for them during the week, as they're preparing the lesson they are going to teach, asking God to keep them focused and to reveal His truth to them, so that we might be taught also.
   I doubt that either Len or Bob with accidentally hang themselves attempting to climb out of a window. But they will struggle at times. Many times, the very best thing we can do for them is to "Tell Dad." After all, as they're trying to tie together the various loose ends of their lessons, there may be moments when they feel as though they're hanging from the casement window, not sure how to accomplish what they had set out to do. For all we know, it might be at that very moment that God hears our prayers for them, reaches out with His enormous arm, and puts their feet safely on solid ground.     

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A boat is a boat

   I have a boat sitting in my garage. In my eyes, it's a very nice boat. It's not a big boat, being only 18 feet in length. It's not one of those beautiful, sleek racing boats. It's not a fishing boat, loaded with all of the latest electronic gadgets that will not only lead me to fish, but which would also put them on my line, drag them into the boat, then fillet and cook them up for me.
   I purchased this boat for a very specific reason. I had things that I wanted a boat to do. I didn't need it to take me out on the ocean, or even Lake Michigan for that matter. I didn't need it to be anything other than what it is. I didn't need it to do anything other than what it does. It fits me perfectly in being exactly what it was designed to be, because that's exactly what I wanted.
   So, what makes this boat what it is? It's a collection of very specific parts. It has a hull, a motor, seats, a windshield, carpeting, electrical wiring, lights, a horn, etc. All of these items were designed to be on this specific boat, and to contribute to the function of the boat as a whole. But looking at more specific detail, the seats are perfect in size and function. They're secured to the floor with bolts and nuts. They're stitched together at various locations by thread. The electrical system includes wire of various lengths and colors, gauges that tell me how the boat is operating, lights of differing colors that not only show other boaters I'm on the water at night, but also which way I'm facing.
   Some of the parts of this boat are plain to see, while others are hidden. But for the boat to operate as it should, and to be what it was designed to be, all of these parts need to do what they were designed to do. If some of them don't work, the boat would still function to an extent, but never to it's intended level of performance.
   As Pastor Len continues to speak on the various roles that each of us play within our church, he's speaking of the exact same idea. We're all part of this church. We all need to not only know what we were designed to do, but also who we were designed to be. God has built this church, just as the builders at Sea Ray built my boat. He knew every part He was going to place within it, what that part was designed to do, and how He wanted each part to work in contributing to the funtion of our church as a whole.
   His design of our church fits perfectly within His purpose for our church. It's not missing any parts. Sure, He might add parts from time to time as He asks us to do different things. But for this time and place, and for the calling our church has received on this day, we are whole and complete. It's simply a matter of the parts knowing what they are called to be and do within the church, and to step up in doing so.
   I don't say these things to make anyone feel guilty about not contributing. Quite the contrary. I say these things to invite each and every one of you to experience the true joy that comes from knowing beyond a doubt that God is using you, along with your own beautiful gifts, talents, and abilities, to further His purpose within the church, the community, the world, and in your own lives. Seeing Him work through you in these ways will forever change the way you look at yourselves, and it will be beautiful. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who are we?

   My son stopped by my house over the weekend. I had invited him over because there was some work I needed to get done around the house. There was nothing to do that I couldn't have done myself, but I wanted to teach him how to do these things so he might use these newfound skills in his own life. After all, as a father, one of my jobs is to pass what I know on to my children.
   First, I wanted him to paint my bathroom. Before he had arrived, I gathered all of the tools he might need to accomplish this task and placed them in the center of the garage.
   He got out of his car, said hello to me, then walked right past the pile of tools as if they weren't even there and headed for the bathroom.
   "This is where you want me to paint?" He asked.
   "Yes, son. This is it." I replied.
   With that, he opened the can of paint, then stepped out of the room. A few seconds later, he returned with an oscillating fan, plugged it in, and placed it in the center of the room.
   "Son, don't you think you might want to......." I began to say before I was interrupted
   "I got this, Dad. Don't worry." He said confidently
   He then grabbed the can of paint and poured it directly into the turning fan, spraying paint all over the room.
   "Ok, the bathroom is painted!" He said with a smile. "What's next?"
   Sounds like a crazy story, doesn't it? But isn't that exactly what we sometimes do in relation to the tasks that God places before us? We feel as though we want to accompish something for God. We want to help out our church. We want to help others. We want to do good works. We want to feel as though we're involved somehow. But sadly, we either move ahead without any knowledge of the tools we have available to us, or we sit it out because we don't know how we would ever accomplish anything since we don't have the tools that others appear to have. Sometimes we even try to use the wrong tools for the task at hand. They may be very good tools, but they're not the right tools for our job.
   Here's the good news: Every single one of us already has within us every tool we will ever need to accomplish whatever it is that God has asked of us. In connection with the topic that Len spoke on last Sunday, take a look at the following:

"7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say,
   “When he ascended to the heights,
      he led a crowd of captives
      and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

 9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.[c] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ." Ephesians 4:7-13
   Notice that this says "He has given." That's very important for all of us to see. We have all been given spiritual gifts, or tools, to be used in doing God's work, and in building up the church. It doesn't matter what your specific gifts are. None are more important or effective than others, because they are all needed if we are to be "One body." They all work together, but they work together best when they're all being used by each of us in accordance with His will for our lives and for our church.
   I'm going to challenge all of you to discover the spiritual gifts you've been given. Dedicate yourself to praying over this. Ask God to reveal these things to you. Just as I, being the father in the story above, wanted my son to use the tools he'd been given, God wants every one of us to discover and use the tools He's given each of us. I promise you that if you do so, and begin to search out ways to use those gifts within the church, it will never feel like work, because you will begin to witness firsthand the incredible blessing of seeing God take those efforts and use them is ways you never dreamed possible.