Changing Four Letter Words to Three

I remember it like it was yesterday – a ministry moment of clarity that has been etched in my memory for more than 25 years. My pastor, Dr. Dennis Newkirk, had been travelling home from Arizona and arrived home around 2:00a.m. on Sunday morning.  As our staff was walking into a pre-worship staff meeting on that Sunday, he mentioned being tired.  I replied, “That’s right, you have to preach three times today.” As if on cue, he turned abruptly and retorted, “No. I get to preach today. I do not have to preach today.”  He smiled and entered the office for our brief meeting.

Why does this stand out in my mind?  I think it was the clarity with which he spoke and the instantaneous response to my statement. He did not need to think for a moment in his reply. It was a well-engrained attitude he had developed about the privilege of preaching the gospel of Jesus each week. It was also a profound moment of teaching for a young youth pastor to hear from his senior pastor. I have never forgotten that moment.  It was not a rebuke, nor a harsh reprimand.  It was a statement never to be confused in my mind again.

This powerful lesson was not lost on me.  I have repeated that statement more times than I can recall.

I believe this simple change from the four letter word HAVE to the three letter word GET can be applied in much of life. Have you considered it in your response to our high calling of financial stewardship? 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 records some of the most profound words in scripture that embody this idea of having to vs. getting to.

Remember this, the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously, will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart – NOT out of regret or of necessity (HAVE TO), for God loves a cheerful giver (emphasis added).   -2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (HCSB)

Consider the attitude expressed by Paul to these Corinthian believers. He reminds them (and us) that the best and most generous gifts should proceed first from the heart, not out of a sense of guilt or obligation. The decision to give to the Lord through His church may be viewed by some as something they HAVE to do, as if it is a burden or an obligation.  Others, however, have grown in their giving to understand the secret of generosity is that it is indeed a privilege that is ours to partner with and to be used by God to give in ways that bless others and make a difference in their lives. These Corinthian believers were getting to share in the work of God as He used them to supply the needs of the body of believers in Jerusalem.

Consider how Paul illustrated the attitude of GETTING to GIVE as expressed by the Macedonian believers. In 2 Corinthians 8:4 he describes this group of believers as being generous beyond their ability to give. He wrote, “they begged us intensely for the privilege (GET to) of sharing in the ministry to the saints…” (emphasis added). Wow!  What a different attitude toward giving. Our giving begins with a right heart and a right attitude.

Prayer:  Lord, would you help me grow to have a Christ-like attitude in my generosity toward others through your church. Would you help me grow to be like the Macedonian believers who understood that we get to join you in your work through our giving of our touch, time, talent, testimony and treasures? Help me today to see what I get to do on Your behalf instead of approaching my day with what I have to do. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your Kingdom’s work here on earth.  – Amen

Resolved… To have deep roots

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

The seed sprouts, searching out the warmth of the sun’s gaze. But it is the unseen journey below the surface which secures its future above the surface. The battle that will rage above is won by the journey taken below. Without deep roots, sagging limbs, lifeless leaves, and a fruitless future await in the season of drought. In the season of the storm, broken branches and tree-toppling terror pen the plot of rootless living. The seed’s security and future flourishing depend upon deep roots plunging purposefully into the hidden heart of the soil.

It is the unseen journey below the surface that secures my future. My life flourishes when my roots grow deep into the soil of Christ’s powerful love and purpose. Like the antelope in the Serengeti searching for water’s life, I dive into the depths of Christ’s compassion and grace feasting on His promises each day. Like fingers groping for a hand-hold fighting against gravity’s pull, I wrap my soul around His character, finding strength to stand against the fierce winds that will certainly come. Coursing through the soil of my soul, my roots grow deep into Christ, finding nourishment to overcome the drought’s withering and wilting power. Plunging purposefully into the secret chambers of my heart, I am rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ, empowered by His strength, strengthened by His courage, and encouraged by His power in the face of the menacing maelstrom.

Therefore, I am resolved to have deep roots.

Beginnings

“Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20 ESV)

The highway project will  expand the capacity of the I-64 westbound to I-264 eastbound interchange. This interchange is notorious for morning and evening backups on I-64. You can find out more about this project on the VDOT website: http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/hamptonroads/i-64-i-264_ramp_and_i-264_to_witchduck_road_project.asp

We recognize that the community will benefit from this project and thousands of Hampton Roads residents and visitors will have safer, more efficient travel. This project will have significant long-term impact on our campus, temporary impact on how we interact with our campus, however we believe it will serve as a catalyst for expanding our mission.

First Norfolk has been proactive in anticipation of this project. Two teams have been formed, a Vision Team and a Details Team. The Vision team is studying the long-term implications and developing a 90 day, 1 year and 10 year plan. The Details Team is taking care of how we handle the present and immediate needs to ensure that ministry still happens in an excellent manner. The church has attorneys that are working with the VDOT attorneys on land acquisition and schedules.

Signs of progress are beginning to be seen around the interchange. Survey markers are popping up, utility poles are being relocated and the 7-11 on Newtown Road is now closed. For First Norfolk, initially,  we will see the maintenance building vacated and the cooling tower that services the HVAC system replaced and re-located. Details of this will be presented at a called church conference meeting on June 1, 2016 in the Fellowship Hall at 5:45 pm.

We host Campus Catalyst meetings each month to inform the church, hear concerns from our membership and to pray. Our next meeting is Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm in the Worship Center. At the April meeting significant time was devoted to prayer and Pastor Eric led us to pray for faith, favor, wisdom, unity and mission.

Join us in prayer for these five things and participate in the Campus Catalyst meetings.  God has great things in store for His Church and exciting days are ahead as we Love God, Love Others, Live the Mission and Make Disciples.

 

 

Resolved… to dance daily

Dwelling the deep darkness, I search for the beautiful life. Surrounded by the stench of death and decay, the tunes of sorrow and sadness saturate my senses. I look for the light to break into the darkness. I long for the chains that clang around my soul to be shattered. I hope for life to be more than a mere noun for my existence, but that it will take on the added meaning of fulfillment and abundance.

When I met Jesus, God unveiled His pleasure upon me. The chill of winter thawed and the veil of death’s dark shadows were shattered. The chains were broken. The broken heart and battered soul were made whole. The lyrics of despair were transformed into a song of joy. And I am clothed in the majestic garments of praise. Today and forever, I live in the glorious light of victorious salvation under the banner of God’s grace. No longer constrained to the march of mourning, my soul delights in the dance of victory.

So, as one set free from sin’s embrace, I resolve to dance daily.

Parents

Benjie Correos, an artist and carpenter, was on an outing with his family on the Millennium Trail that runs alongside the Yukon River. He was fishing when his seven-year-old son Myles, playing nearby, slipped and fell into the river’s swollen, fast-moving water. He and his wife went in after him, and Benjie was able to grab on to Myles and hold his head up. However, the father could not get free of the undertow. Two other men jumped into the river and were able to pull Myles to safety but Mr. Correos disappeared (The Globe and Mail)

Parents live a sacrificial life for their children. The role of parents with their children is found in the powerful love that God has shown us in sending Jesus to give His life so that through faith in Christ we might live. Our children learn more from our conduct than from our words. It is not enough merely to say the right things. We must live out loud the life of a transformed heart.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)

God’s plan is for parents to help their children know Him and live according to His plan so that they experience the best in life.

1. Don’t provoke your children.

Paul called mothers and fathers in the church to protect the uniqueness of their children. He said, “Don’t provoke your children to wrath.” This wrath is the emotional and psychological disruption in their lives that can give the devil opportunity to make hay with our children. We need to understand our children and the uniqueness that God has given to them. We must avoid attitudes, words, and actions which drive our children to resentment and bitterness.

2. Direct their steps.

God has given parents the responsibility to direct their children in wisdom with warning and correction. We must lead our children along the path of Jesus Christ. We set their path by training them each day in the school of wisdom. We correct them and help them adjust their steps so that they become more like Jesus Christ. The content of this training and admonition is Jesus Christ Himself.

As parents, we want to lead our children to “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7-9). We teach them to learn and follow God’s will. If we don’t follow God’s will as parents while teaching our children to fear God, then we really are teaching them that fearing God is a good religious lesson but not important in living life. Parents, we direct the steps of our children toward fullness of life in Jesus when we show them a full life in Jesus by how we live each day, not merely by what we say.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to nourish my children, showing them and teaching them the fullness of life in following Your will each day.”

 

Children

One of the greatest struggles when you move to a new city is finding your way. I’ve noticed that some cities have an “easy-read.” Take Oklahoma City. The city’s laid out on a grid with most of the main roads numbered and directional – like NW 23rd street. It doesn’t take long to figure out your direction in that city. But some cities are more difficult. For instance, if you live in a city that began as a river town, the direction of the streets is not always constant. Sometimes the road will go east, and sometimes west. It can be difficult to navigate in a city like that.

Children need clarity to experience life in all of its fullness. Parents have that role.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–9, ESV)

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NKJV)

Parents pass on God’s wisdom and instruction to their children, and children obey. Paul called the children to be ready to listen and to carry out the instruction and commands of their parents.

1. Obey your parents.

When we hear someone knocking at the door of our home, we have the choice to open the door to them or to ignore it. Obedience is hearing the knock (instruction from parents) and opening the door (obeying the instruction).

“The obedience of Christian children to their parents is all of a piece with their submission to Christ: the additional motivating phrase, ‘in the Lord,’ is virtually synonymous with ‘as to the Lord’ or ‘as to Christ’ (cf. 5:22, 6:5) and indicates that their obedience is part of their Christian discipleship.” (P. T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 441)

Obedience to our parents is the right and proper thing to do. Obedience is what God commands in His word. We obey our parents because it is what God has demanded, and we live to honor Him.

2. Honor your parents.

Children are also called to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). Now obedience is the act, but honor is the attitude that children should possess behind their act of obedience. When we enter adulthood, obedience to our parents is replaced by honor for our parents.

In Grimm’s fairy tales an elderly man was taken into his only son’s care. Living in his son’s home, however, had its challenges. The elderly man’s shaking hands and poor eyesight caused problems for the woman of the house. She and the elderly man’s son decided to put the elderly man in a corner, at his own table. Everything was fine until the elderly man broke one of the woman’s bowls. So, the elderly man’s son made a wooden bowl for him to eat out of in the corner of the small home. A few days later, the elderly man’s son and his wife entered the home to find their 4 year old trying to make something out of wooden blocks. They asked him what it was, and he said: “I’m making a wooden bowl so that when you are old, you’ll have something to eat out of too.”

God told His people then and tells us today that we must honor our parents. It is not perfection that demands honor, for we have already seen that no one is perfect. God has deemed it important to honor those whom He has placed in a specific position. For God, it is supremely important to honor those whom He has placed as our parents. They are imperfect, but they deserve our honor. How can we accomplish this command today?

To honor means to value them as preeminently important in our lives. We must show our parents that they are preeminently important to us. For those who are under the direct authority of their parents, this command means that we submit to their direction.  Sometimes I am amazed at how well parents submit to their children, but that is not the model that God established. God expects us to spend time with our parents and to take care of them, to bless them, to love them. Again this is not dependent upon their perfection or imperfection. It is dependent upon their position as parents.

The promise God gives children when they honor and obey their parents is divine blessing. As God evaluates the heart of the children for their parents, He rewards those who have honored them with a life immersed in His touch.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to obey and honor my parents so that You may lead me to health in my relationships.”