Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Addiction

According to psychaitry.org, "addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. Health, finances,relationships, and careers can be ruined."

That definition contains some heavy words.

Chronic

Brain

Disease

Compulsive

Consequences

Ruined

The National Institute of Drug Abuse says, "Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors." That is weighty, too.

Today one of our favorite baseball players disclosed to MLB that he had relapsed. His career, his family, and his health are in question.

Everyday someone in your circle of influence is struggling with an addiction. It may be drugs, alcohol, pornography, or dozens of other things. Not everyone will seek help.

I believe in the power of prayer and I believe in the power of God. I also believe that God uses skilled doctors and counselors to affect healing in addicts. And I believe in the power of friendships.

Most of us can pray. Most of us can be the friend that walks through recovery with someone we love. Most of us can encourage the addict to get help.

It seems the MLB star came forward on his own - or at least without a failed drug test about to be released. More details will come out in the next hours and days. But he's seeking help. His story includes relapses and recoveries so he knows there is a way of hope. He has a testimony of Christian faith. It would be easy to throw rocks at him, cast him on the trash heap, and look for another hero.

My own faith-journey tells me that there is always hope. Yes, there may be relapses into whatever sin you struggle most with, but the hope is in knowing that Jesus forgives us when we turn to him, he accepts us with all our faults, and he works in us to make us something new. If I cast this player on the trash heap I might as well join him. How can there be hope for my sin if there's no hope for his?

Look around you for that person who needs someone to believe in him. Find the addict in your circle and pray for her. Encourage them to seek help.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hidden Files

I've spent about 2 hours trying to get my mail app to import old mailboxes. It should have been easier and quicker but the operator didn't know what he was doing.

Here's the story. I opened Mail on my MacBookPro this afternoon. It worked fine. I hadn't check mail on this computer in a few days so it went through the process of checking mailboxes, downloading any email I had not already deleted on other devices, and deleting messages I had deleted already elsewhere.

Then I needed to reboot for another issue and when I tried accessing Mail again a message came up telling me that I needed to import mailboxes from earlier versions of Mail before I could continue. OK, no problem. I clicked "import" and waited.

A minute later another message came up telling me that the import failed because of some gobbledy-goop I didn't understand. So like any good computer user, I tried again. Same result. Then I remembered the first line of response the IT guy at my previous employer always used - "Reboot!"

So I rebooted. Same thing.

My next favorite thing to do is to Google the exact phrase in the message box hoping that someone else has already plodded through the problem and I could just simply copy his solution.

I found plenty of threads talking about this issue but it was too technical. I needed a simple 1, 2, 3 answer in simple English.

Then I searched the Apple resources and found a couple of things I understood and tried. One was really easy and allowed me to actually get into the Mail app for the first time in over an hour.

The second super secret solution was to help me regain the old email I had saved in Mail prior to this unannounced and mysteriously downloaded upgrade.

I found the old mailboxes tucked away in a nest of computer drawers in a never-ending computer file cabinet. But they were in a hidden folder! I could get to them in Finder but not in the Mail app to import them.

So I spent a long, long time trying to figure out who to "unhide" my hidden mailbox files. And I did and all is right and well and just the way I like it.

Deep within each of us are some super secret things we've done. We think nobody knows about them. We think nobody will ever discover them. As time goes on we become arrogant about our ability to keep others from finding out.

But God knows. He sees the secret places in my heart. I'm not exactly sure of the emotion he has regarding that stuff. I don't think it's anger although most of us have heard that God is angry because of sin and is just waiting to fling a lightning bolt of judgment down upon us.

I believe God is just and holy and righteous. I believe he will judge every person. But I really don't think that's the emotion God feels while you and I are trying to hide our sins from everybody else.

Maybe what God is is grieved by our sin. When you stop and think about what God has already done to deal with our sins, it seems grieved could be a good description of his response to our sins.

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave his One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 HCSB).

God's done a lot to deal with our sin. Jesus died receiving the punishment for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God - restored to right relationship with him. God freely offers salvation, forgiveness, redemption to anyone who will accept the gift. It's his grace extending freedom from what we are trying to hide and held prisoner by.

Have you ever tried to give someone a very special gift but they refused it? How did you feel? In some small way that is how God feels when you try to hide your sin rather than receive the forgiveness that's wrapped up in the free gift of salvation.

It's been my experience and that of hundreds of people I've talked with during my years in ministry that trying to hide your sins, ignoring your sins, or thinking sin is no big deal will make you miserable. You'll be smothered by the presence of sin and there is nothing you can do about it.

Except to turn to God believing that Jesus is his son and what Jesus did on the cross is the only remedy for your sin problem. Confess Jesus as your Savior and Lord, and commit to follow Jesus for the rest of your life.

Stop hiding your sins. God knows about them anyway. And he loves you anyway.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Faith, Adversity, and the Crucible

I'm never amazed when God speaks to me while running down Rushing Road. What he says, however, is always amazing.

God speaks through the most simple things. He did that this morning.

2.68 miles
36 minutes
2 seconds
1 Aha Moment

First, don't make fun of my speed.

Second, Forrest does most of the audible speaking. My pace doesn't strain him like it does me. I can barely grunt and he's telling stories running uphill.

The pace was slow enough so I could actually join in the conversation a little today. I would look for a downhill slope, take a big breath, and quickly spew out a thought or response.

We were talking about the struggles people face. Family, finances, friends, and faith seem to be targets that Satan is good at hitting. That's the case for lots of folks we know.

These verses from the Bible came to mind as we made our way through the darkness.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

So Forrest and I began to chew on these two statements. Let me know if you think either is valid. Are both valid?

Adversity is the crucible in which faith is proven.
Faith is the crucible in which adversity is crushed.

In adversity, faith is all you have to count on. Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that God wants what is best for you? Do you believe that God can do anything? If you believe (have faith in God) then you can rest in who God is and in his promises even though circumstances don't look so good right now. Faith allows you to have hope in what may seem to be a hopeless situation.

If your belief in God's love, God's desire, and God's ability aren't strong, your faith waivers and your circumstances overwhelm you. You lose a spouse, you lose a job, you lose control...and you lose it. Life spins out of control. Hope is lost. Fear moves in.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You can trust God to do what is best for you because he can and he loves you. And your faith will grow. That will prepare you for the next crucible experience. Don't face that experience with waivering or no faith.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Which Way?

In our devotion time this morning, Deana and I talked about God's timing. I like to think I am a patient person. I don't want to rush ahead of God. Should I act too quickly I will most likely make a mistake.

Just as bad as acting hastily is erring on the side of caution. Can you be too patient?

No, you can't be too patient because patience is simply waiting for God's timing. But you can so drag your feet IN THE NAME OF PATIENCE that you miss the opportunity.

In my desire to not act hastily I miss opportunity. My actions seem to say, "God, show me an open door. OK, there it is. Now push me through it."

Dr. Lemley, my college accounting professor, used to say accountants were doubly cautious. They wear a belt AND suspenders.

I want God to sky-write my directions. I want a courier and a trumpeter to show up on my doorstep. I want every commercial in every local newscast to be God's instructions to me.

So I wait patiently and hope I haven't already missed it.

Sometimes I don't understand God and his ways.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Second Guessing

The Super Bowl ended with the commentators, analysts, pundits, and fans questioning a play call. Down by 4 points with less than a minute to go, the Sea Hawks had the ball on the Patriots one yard line. A power run through the middle, a leap over the top, a scamper around the end and the game goes the other way.

Instead, Seattle calls a quick slant pass play. The ball is intercepted and the game ends with New England the victor.

Seattle has one of the NFL's best running backs...especially when it comes to power running. But with time running out the coach wanted to maximize his three remaining downs. The running back had buoyed the team many times before. But the play was a pass.

I completely understand the call. I also completely understand the noise from almost everyone calling for a run play.

It was late October 1981. The Dardanelle Sand Lizards were trying to beat the Ozark Hillbillies for a spot in the playoffs. With the game winding down and needing a touchdown to win the game, we started deep in our own territory. We had a great running back, Jamie Young. For three or four plays Jamie took the ball around the left end and we were near the Ozark 20 yard line.

As I leaned forward in the huddle to hear the next play I smiled when I heard the call. Ray Webster was a junior, a little smaller than Jamie, but really fast. Our coach called for Ray to take the ball around the right end. I knew we were about to score. Ozark would expect Jamie to take it left again.

A few seconds later my excited crashed. The pitch from the QB to Ray hit the ground. Ozark recovered the fumble. They ran out the clock. Our hopes of making the playoffs ended.

Predictability is a curse when it comes to sports. Even this beast of a running back for Seattle scored only once out of five attempts from the one yard line this season. NFL defenses can load up for a plunge up the middle and stop even the best offenses.

I won't second guess the coach...mine from 1981 or Seattle's from last night.

Sometimes we squeeze God into a predictable box. Because he did something we liked once or that was helpful in a certain situation, we want him to act that way again. Wouldn't it be better to let God - with all his knowledge, understanding, and power - do whatever he wants to do? Maybe last week's solution is not the best for this week. Maybe last year's miracle is not what you really need this year.

It's the creativity of God that we rarely tap. We talk about the beauty of creation and wonder how he did it. What if we stopped resisting his creativity in our daily experience? I think what God would do would be better than making the high school playoffs or winning the Super Bowl.


photo cred:
nbcsports.com
answersingenesis.org

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Temptation

We had a spirited discussion in Bible study last night. I started it when I used this definition of temptation while talking about Genesis 3.

"A temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way." (Warren Wiersbe, Be Basic)

I threw out the definition then went on to apply it to the text. I didn't make it that far for several minutes. And that's ok. Sometimes we need to park a minute to make sure people understand. I'm not sure we got there but we tried.

The sticking point was whether or not every temptation fits that definition. My first thought was about sexual temptation. God created humans for sexual intimacy. Sex is a good thing but rape and abuse, sex with a person other than your spouse, an overly aggressive pursuit of sex or the denying of sex to your spouse, and pornography are bad ways to express sexuality.

What about stealing? Wiersbe isn't saying that stealing is a good thing. Stealing is the bad way of acquiring things. We need things to live but stealing them or stealing to get them is wrong. We want things, too. If the desire leads to stealing or even coveting we have fallen to temptation.

The temptation Eve faced was to find her worth and value (which are good things) not in her relationship with God (a good way) but by a disobedient shortcut (a bad way).

Satan is crafty and he knows how to attack our weaknesses. It's not a sin to be tempted; the sin is to follow the temptation by choosing a bad way to get even a good thing.

So I wonder about the person who says they would steal to feed their children if they had to. I'll let you chew on that. Leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Teaching Stewardship

This morning I'm looking at stewardship material to use at Cross Road. We will teach and preach about biblical principles of stewardship during Bible study and worship each Sunday in February. As with all Christian disciplines, it's easy to soften on our commitments. While I believe stewardship is a central component of discipleship and include these principles regularly in my sermons, taking a closer look usually helps us renew our commitments or make new ones.

Many pastors that I speak with are feeling an economic crunch. In spite of what we heard in the State of the Union last night, the economy has not bounced back. It hasn't in my world personally and in the realm of my pastorate. Up and down the roads and all around town I hear the same thing.

Some of the financial struggles a church faces are due to economics. A tithe is 10% of a family's gross income. If gross income goes down then the tithe goes down. Income decreases because business is bad, sales are lower, a family member loses a job, factories shut down, the main wage-earner enters retirement, etc. There's not much a church can do about that. If the family is faithful to stewardship and continues to tithe then that is a positive rather than a negative. I hope that I've taught and modeled to be faithful in little or much, less or more.

A church may also deal with tight times because some who tithe no longer attend the church. The migration of church members really doesn't bother me if the members move along because God is leading them to do so. I've heard plenty of reasons that somehow seem to have attracted God's blessing. "This other church offers more for my family." "This other church is where my friends attend." "I like the music better at the other church." I won't say those are never good reasons to move but I can say honestly that I've never heard one of these excuses when it wasn't just a coverup for something else.

Regardless of the reason, when a person no longer attends our church we no longer receive their tithe. We have experienced some of this and have to adjust accordingly.

So there isn't much you can do about economics and migration, but a third reason churches struggle financially is fixable: when members are not properly stewarding the resources God entrusts to them. I don't know that this is absolutely the case with our church but I do know that money is an area where a little encouragement and instruction helps people apply wisdom. So we will study passages of scripture that teach stewardship fundamentals. If just one or a few families become better stewards then the church benefits and the families do, too. God promises to bless those who are faithful stewards.

I should mention a fourth reason churches struggle with money. Sometimes the church is not a good steward of her resources. We expect our members to be good stewards; we should lead our churches to be good stewards, too. Budgets - a better name is Ministry Spending Plans - have to be reviewed regularly just like a family's home budget is reviewed. Adjustments may be necessary to reflect what really is happening and to focus attention on specific areas of ministry. Hard decisions regarding favored projects must be made. You get the point: churches must be good stewards.

The bottom line for me is humorously reflected in what a preacher once said. "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that God has provided all the resources we need to do everything he wants us to do. The bad news is that most of it is still in your pocket."

It's true. If we are good stewards with the resources God has given us our churches will never lack for resources to meet the ministry opportunities presented to us when engaging the Great Commission.

Just think about it. The gospel reaches lost people. Needs of the poor and hurting are met. Churches fulfill God's calling. Christians are blessed. Teaching stewardship is good for everyone.