my love/hate relationship

Summer in South Florida is a mixed bag. You take the good with the bad. Below is my list of both…

I love the water, swimming, snorkeling, and the beach in general. Surf fishing is fun. The weather isn’t too bad, even with the humidity. The gulf breezes keep us relatively cool and the afternoon thunder storms calm the heat a bit. The cloud formations are beautiful and the evening sun reflecting on them is awesome. Golf is fun, walks in the morning or the evening are nice. Baseball is always a highlight and outdoor summer festivals are great. Summer life in Florida is fun, and I like it. This is the fun part. This is the part I love.

There is another side of summer…

Lots of people take an extended vacation from church and, in some cases, from God. Some people are out of town on vacation for 2 or 3 weeks but take the entire summer off of church because “it’s summer, you can’t expect me to be there!” Some of these people get eaten up by the cares of life during the summer because they are dislodged from their relationship with other Christ-followers and the church. Some have the mentality that the church can’t do anything of significance; we can’t make any progress because so many people are unplugged this time of year. Sometimes it feels like some families won’t return until October. Sometimes it seems we have to start from scratch in the Fall, we have to get the train moving again, building momentum can be tough. These are the parts of summer that I hate. I can’t stand the idea losing one quarter or even one third of the ministry year.

We will survive, we will make it until Fall. But I am already strategizing about how we can prevent this “inevitable summer slide” next year. The effort required may kill me and I may never succeed, but I will die trying.

a cup of cold water

One of the causes I am gaining passion for is pure drinking water for people around the world. 1.1 billion people drink contaminated water every day. Every day 5,000 children die from waterborne illness. This is the single greatest threat to children world wide. If you would like to start being a part of the solution, check out what two of my friends are doing:

Bob and Georgette Kornegay with Servants Hearts Ministries.
Fred Garmon with People for Care and Learning.

preventable problems

I have been accused of fixating. Most of the time that I come across a problem, I spend a little too much time wondering how the problem could have been avoided. I usually talk about what should have happened rather that how the problem can now be solved. Some examples: car accidents caused by people who were texting while driving; sunburn from going to the beach without sun block; a hangover from drinking too much. The solutions to these problems, or rather the preventions, are very obvious. Do I fixate on prevention? Guilty as charged.

I wonder what percentage of problems are avoidable. I would not be shocked to learn that a good 75% of our issues wouldn’t be issues if we had made better choices. Most marital problems can be avoided: Choose the right person to marry, practice good communication skills and always respect the other person and many of our relationship problems never arise. Some financial issues can be averted ahead of time: Don’t spend more than you make and bankruptcy is never a consideration. Even some health problems could be headed off if wise decisions are made: Don’t smoke and you live longer.

Now I wonder what percentage of my time is spent dealing with problems that could have been avoided. Do I spend half of my day trying to solve something that never should have happened? Yes, on many days! If fact, a large part of my responsibility is to help people through tough times that they created!

From a life-stewardship point of view, it may be helpful if we think in terms of prevention. How will the decisions I am making today affect my future. What future problems can I avoid by making good choices today? I know it sounds elementary, but you would be surprised how few people process life this way.

I am not minimizing the crises of life. I am saying, God gives us some wisdom, let’s use it. I hope I am not coming across hard-hearted and totally void of mercy. That is not the case. I just think we all would be much happier and could spend our time on more productive things if we would simply think things out a little ahead of time. Then maybe we could all work together on solving some of the world’s problems that are not so avoidable.

OK, I tried to avoid it but I just have to say it, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” (Ben Franklin)

she’s home!

Many of you have prayed for Sarai, a little girl who, three months ago, was removed by her drug addicted father from Casa Shalom orphanage in Guatemala. Thank God, she was returned to the home late last night. Understand, this was a matter of life and death for this precious little one. God spared her. Let’s now pray that she will not suffer long-term results of the ordeal she has been through over the past few months.

from the message today…

We are in a series called, “Refreshing Your Soul”. We are focusing primarily on Psalms 23. I received a couple of requests for part of today’s message to be posted here. I hope you find it beneficial.

Here is the part I called “The Break Down of Psalms 23” (Although I made a couple of adjustments, this is not original with me.)

The 23rd Psalms broken down into bite size pieces…
My shepherd: relationship
Shall not want: supply
Green pastures: rest
Still waters: refreshment
Restores my soul: healing
Paths of righteousness: guidance
His name’s sake: purpose
Valley: testing
Fear no evil: protection
Art with me: faithfulness
Rod and staff: comfort
They comfort me: encouragement
Table: hope
Head with Oil: consecration
Runs over: abundance
Goodness and mercy all the days: blessing
House of the Lord: security
Forever: eternity

These are the things that your Good Shepherd offers you!

Now, this is the part of the message when I talked about “Parodies of the 23rd Psalms.” Remember, a parody is “a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.” This is not intended to be sacrilegious – don’t be offended.

My intellect is my shepherd, my reasoning capacity supplies all I will ever need. My ability to figure it all out allows me to be calm and to enjoy an inner peace. My scholarly accomplishments dictate my spiritual health. My ability to conduct research and be rational before making a decision is what guides me into my desired path. When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for, for my ability to comprehend will provide the comfort I will need. My understanding takes care of me when in the presence of my enemies, my cup of wisdom overflows. Surely common sense and sound judgment will be with me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of intelligence forever.

My youth is my shepherd, my good health is all I need. Being young allows me to be strong enough to make it to the green pastures and still water, but who needs to rest? Being young is refreshing! I hear of other people who walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but it will never happen to me. I am comforted by the fact that I am invincible. My strength and vitality allows me to overcome my enemies. Surely strength and health will follow me all the days of my long life and I will stay young forever!

My money is my shepherd, I can buy everything I want. With enough of it, I can purchase a green pasture (the color of money) and a river full of still waters. Money will guide me in paths of happiness. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, lots of money will buy the best health care and I will not be afraid! My money is with me! My money provides a table of the finest food while me enemy just sits and watches. My money cup overflows. Surely my riches will stay with me all the days of my life and I will dwell in a multi-million dollar mansion forever!

I wrote a few more, but they are probably a little rough for usage here. Thanks for all of the affirmation from this series.

hutchinson island

I took a quick trip to Hutchinson Island yesterday for some much appreciated time off. Included below are a few pictures I hope you will enjoy. It seems to me that focusing on God and getting back to a basic understanding of faith in Him is easier in nature. Maybe it is the natural beauty that reveals how awesome He is. Maybe it is getting away from the crowds of people that makes this happen. Either way, it worked for me! My head is clear and my heart is full. I am now much better prepared a weekend of ministry.

Click on the first two pictures to enlarge so you can see the dragonfly.

God cares more about me as His son than He does about me as a Pastor. He doesn’t look at me harshly or judgmentally, he looks at me with compassion and mercy. He loves me unconditionally. He is not ashamed of my failures, He does not wish that I was more like another of His children. He is not impatient with me, wondering if I will ever grow up. He doesn’t accept me based on my performance. He doesn’t love me more when I do a good job. He would not trade me in for someone else. He doesn’t walk away from me when I preach bad or when I don’t pray as much as I should. When I misinterpret His Word, He is patient. He really loves me as His son.

No matter how hard I try, how hard I work, or how much I improve, God won’t love me any more than He does right now. If I get it all right, say all the right things and make all of the right decisions, I will still be viewed as His son, no more and no less. I can’t do better than that!

If I get to heaven, it won’t be because I spent my life working in His kingdom. I won’t gain entrance because I am ordained. Preaching is not a ticket to eternity. The list He reads from won’t have a special section for “Reverends”, “Bishops” or “Pastors”. The only special section is for His kids.

It’s good to know.