Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just Because You Don't See It Happening Doesn't Mean It's Not Happening

I’m a graduate of Penn State University.  While there I studied athletic training, so I had the privilege of working with many of the sports teams at the school.  One of the teams I worked with was the men’s basketball team.  As part of the Big 10, the games were sometimes nationally televised which meant, at times, I was on national TV.  The odds of seeing me were slightly less than winning the lottery and getting struck by a meteor on the same day, but none-the-less, there was still a chance.  One evening, PSU was playing IU.  The game was going to be televised starting at 7:30pm on ESPN 2.  So, I called my mom and said, “Mom.  Turn on ESPN 2 at 7:30 tonight.  If the moon and the stars are aligned just right, you may get to see me on TV.” 

Anyway, Penn State loses to Bobby Knight and the Hoosiers.  It’s 10:30pm.  I’m finally home after finishing up everything at the athletic training room.  The phone rings.  It’s my mom.  She says, “I saw you on TV tonight.”   I say, “Oh, that’s cool.”  She goes on to say, “You’re number 32, right?” 

Now, to put this in perspective, number 32 was Pete Lisicky, the best player on the team!  So, I had to explain to my mom that I only worked for the team; I didn’t actually play ON the team.  Thankfully she didn’t disown me, although I think she did check to see if Pete wanted to be adopted.

While I find that to be a funny story, I’m also truly inspired by it because it feels really good to have someone believe in me.  To have my mom believe in me so much that she actually thought that a 5’8”, slightly overweight, non-athlete type of guy like me could actually be the best player on a Division 1 basketball team well that just makes me feel good. 

Believing in someone can have a dramatic difference in his or her life. I’m a product of the grace of God more than anything else, but I was also surrounded by people who believed in me (and act of God’s grace in itself). For me, this mainly happened at church.  My mom brought me to church starting at a young age and it was there that I met people who believed in kids.  People who loved kids even when they weren’t so lovable.  People who shared the Gospel with kids and believed that it truly can make a difference in their life even at an early age.

I could tell you stories about Bessie, who led me to Jesus when I was like in kindergarten who gave me a hug and a kiss every time she saw me at church.

I could tell you stories about Shirley who we actually made cry in one of my Sunday School classes because we were behaving so poorly.  But, she showed up the next week and the week after that and the week after that and continued to share God’s word with us.

I could tell you stories about Judy who led our “Jr. Church” and showed us how to have fun while singing, even though she wasn’t the greatest singer in the world. 

I could tell you stories of Carolyn who had me over to her house week after week.  She cooked a meal.  Her husband led a Bible study.  They were so gracious and kind and hospitable and made me hungry to be the same way.

Ed, Rory, Dorothy, Bob, Dave these are all men and women who showed up and just poured in to my life for no other reason than the fact that I was a little boy in their ministry.  I am a product of their love and their faithfulness and their belief in me and their willingness to share the Gospel.  I don’t remember much of what they told me, but I sure remember how they made me feel and I just felt very loved and enjoyed by them. Their work and investment in my life was “the first lyric to a song that is still being written today.”  (Acuff)

Chances are you probably have people like that in your life too.  people who believed in you and invested in you and poured their life in to you people who just helped you feel loved.

If you’re someone in ministry or someone who volunteers in ministry, can I just encourage you by saying what you are doing is really making a difference.  I know at times we don’t exactly see that.  And, that’s really one of the difficulties in ministry much of the time you don’t get to see the end results.  You invest so much and you pour so much in to the lives of people, but a lot of times we don’t necessarily get to see the results of it.  But, just because you don’t see it happening doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  Isaiah 55:11 reminds us that God’s word never comes back empty.  It will always accomplish His purposes.

None of the people I mentioned (and many others) who served and sacrificed and invested in my life they weren’t seeing any fruit, they were just thinking faithfulness.  They just wanted to be faithful with the gifts and passions God had given them and they just believed in kids. 30 or so years ago, they didn’t see anything happening in my life but just because they didn’t see it happening didn’t mean it wasn’t happening.  God was using every smile, every hug, every high-five, every snack, every Bible lesson, every kind act, every event, every invite over, every meal cooked, every hour of preparation behind the scenes God was using it all in my life at least.  And, if we affect only 1 person, then we are doing what God wants us to do.

So, any time you invest in another person and sacrificially serve them, you truly are making a difference even when it may not feel that way.  Don’t base the future on the response you are currently getting.  The love you show to others may be the beginning of a work that God promises to finish in their life. (Philippians 1:6) 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What to Do After You Say "I Do"

My wife and I have been married nearly 13 years and something I’ve learned during that time is that “marriage was intended to be the deepest bond one can experience and the highest commitment one can offer.”  (Keller)  As Jesus said, “The two are united in to one.” (Mark 10:8)  So, from the moment I said, “I do,” life was no longer about me as an individual because my life is no longer an individual life.  I have been united with Carol and we are now “one flesh.” 

On our wedding day we became one, but since that time we have been living out our “oneness” in a world that seeks to divide.  Schedules, commitments, ministry, work, all good things, but they can easily hinder oneness.  Throw in to the mix my sinfulness my pride, selfishness, fear, lack of patience, etc. Mix the inward sinfulness with the outward temptations and you get a nice recipe for lack of oneness. 

For marriage to be all that God intends for it to be, you will have to fight for oneness in a world that seeks to divide.  To fight for this oneness, there are some things we can to do after we say, “I do.”

This “to do” list for marriage comes from our lead pastor, Mark.  I think they are important things to do after saying, “I do.”

Do What You Used to Do.  Are there things you enjoyed doing before you were married that you no longer do?  Are there things you enjoyed doing before you had kids that you no longer do?  Chances are those things you used to do developed a great sense of intimacy and oneness between you and your spouse and you miss doing them.  Life has a habit of getting in the way.  We are often driven by the urgent instead of the important.  Ironically, the important but NOT urgent things are usually the most important for us to focus on.  So, what are those things you used to do that helped you win each other’s heart?  Create space for those things and do what you used to do.

Do What You’re Supposed to Do. Am I pursuing Jesus?  Am I allowing myself to fall more and more in love with Him?  Am I finding my ultimate identity in Him?  If I’m not, I will place expectations upon my marriage and my wife that they were ever meant to fulfill.  Am I loving my wife as Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself up for her?  (Ephesians 5)  Am I being a servant-leader?  Far too often I want to by-pass the word “servant” and simply jump to “leader.”  When I do, I’m using my position or strength or authority in a way that is disrespectful toward my wife and the woman God has created her to be. Am I shepherding her heart? As a woman, our culture bombards my wife with an onslaught of “You’re not enough” messages every single day.  Am I counteracting those messages with my words and actions?  Am I telling her how pretty she is?  Am I pointing out the amazing things she does?  Are my eyes convincing her of her beauty?  Am I letting her know what I love about her personality?  My wife is never going to tell me that I am encouraging her too much, so there is no reason for me to hold back!  Am I helping her feel as if she is my earthly priority? Am I extending her grace and relying on God’s grace?  Extending grace and relying on it is the foundation of a healthy marriage. The more I realize how much I need the grace of God in my life, the more I’ll be willing to extend it toward my wife. This is just one reason why the Bible is so powerful.  It is a very clear mirror for me.  Is my life reflecting what it tells me to do in my marriage?

Do Something Together.  Shared activity is a wonderful way to bond (especially for men).  Serving together, walking together, reading together, exercising together find something you both enjoy and do it together.  Even if you’re not necessarily verbally connecting the entire time, finding a common interest and doing it together helps create oneness and also gives you both something to talk about and something to look forward to. 

Do Something New.  It’s easy to get in a rut.  Sometimes you just need to shake it up and do something new.  Talk to each other about things you’ve always wanted to do, but have never had the chance.  Try to find ways to make those things happen.  It could be as simple as a new style of food to try or as adventurous as going skydiving!  It’s not so much what you do here, but rather the fact that it’s new and fresh.

Any one can fall in love— I did — and, it is likely that you did too. Think about it— all it really takes to fall in love is a pulse. And it only takes half a pulse to fall into lust. I think falling in love is the easy part.  Staying in love is another matter; staying in love requires a plan and some learned skills. (Fields) With God’s grace you’re able to do what you need to do after you say, “I do.”

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