Monday, October 24, 2011

A young Cambodian girl serves by preparing food for her family

I have been pondering 2 Kings 5 over the last few weeks. I am captivated by the attitudes of the servants in this story. Their actions cast a shadow that I find myself lost in.

Everything about our country teaches us to seek success. Get a good job, make lots of money and you will be happy.

The problem is, it doesn't work.

Many have made this their mantra and even pass it on to their children. I have watched many students struggle with their calling in life because they fear Mom and Dad's reaction if they pursue ministry. I've heard many stories of parents' who tell their children not to pursue ministry, "cause there's no money in it."

Most who serve money as their master are miserable, and live primarily to try to make more. Pursuing the need to fill an emptiness within that only Christ can fill.

I have seen many believers fall prey to this idolatry.

The story in 2 Kings 5 deals with Naaman's healing from leprosy. What I am taken by is the fact that 4 times in this story, a servant or messenger, who remains nameless, fulfills a role of obedience to their master, and in most cases the Lord, to further His glory.

They don't seek the limelight. There is no false bravado or insincere humility that seems to lift up the Lord but really illuminates self.

A servant doesn't care who knows his name, he serves because he knows the God who saved him.

This is how we should be living. Seeking to point others to Christ, because we know Him and we know what He has saved us from.

Many begin on this path, but the allure of power, fame, etc., captivates hearts and betrays them.

True humility seeks to make much of Christ, always! It doesn't go on sabbatical, and begin to promote self.

I find myself falling prey to this scheme of the enemy. It's easy to justify as I see many do the same thing. Many call it, "ministerial license."

It is an effective tool of the enemy. Men fall into this trap often.

The desire for "everybody to know your name," is a common one.

We all want to be known, revered.

Few who are, elevate self.

I am thankful for the servants brought to light, 4 different times in this passage. They have caused me to repose and reconnoiter.

I can get a bit full of myself and my own agenda, way too easily.

Seeking and serving because I know my Master is what life is really about. He takes care of His own, when they are faithful to His call.

I praise Him for it!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

After my ordination, Deanna and I were congratulated by dear friends, Nate and Amy

All of us have a story. Each of our stories are wrought with difficulties. How we respond to those same events shape who we are and reveal much about our walk with Him.

Sometimes, the difficulties we endure can seem so overwhelming in the moment, that we may not endure them as well as we would like to believe we would.

Back in the early 90's, I endured clinical depression. I had very dark thoughts and and overwhelming urges that were difficult to supress. I heard pastor's preach sermons on the topic. I was led to believe that if I suffered from this, I was not spiritually as mature as I ought to be (Who among us is as spiritually mature as we ought to be?).

I felt like much less of Christian, and much less of a man.

I have found that most men who preach this, have never endured depression.

It's very easy to find people who are depressed and use their walk or lack thereof to prove theories.

The reality is, there are many reasons for the onset of depression. Some are inherited, some are brought on by physical issues, and still others are brought on by events in life. They may even work in harmony with each other.

We are inundated with commercials that tell us to use their depression meds.

In my home, I often have the tv remote. One of my jobs is to mute the tv when those commercials (among others) come on. If I don't do my job, I risk losing remote privileges. I like having remote privileges.

Depression is very real, and while deep spiritual maturity can help prevent certain aspects of depression, it cannot allay all.

The stigma attached to this keeps too many from getting the help they need. Personally, I want a Christian doctor who knows/understands me, to be a part of the healing process. If one is not available, don't hesitate to get help from those available.

Last week, a very godly brother, a man who has been a significant part of our lives, brought his life to an end. He was a young father, and deeply loved his wife, daughter and family. He was also deeply loved by them.

He held a significant position (unpaid)in his church. He had the Spirit of the Lord all about him, as he interacted with others. He and his wife helped get my son to the mission field through financial gifts and prayer. They used to lead worship side by side on the praise team, in church.

To know him was to see the heart of our Savior.

He had endured multiple, major back surgeries. He lived with more pain than most ever experience. He had endured depression. He had sought help, in the past, and overcome it.

None of his family, friends or co-workers were aware that his depression had returned. In fact, his bride did not know until papers came in the mail, that he was to fill out for his doctor, to begin the process once again of obtaining the help he needed. They came too late.

That others did not know, was not unusual. Not for him. He was too selfless to occupy others with his needs. He had always had a very even temperment.

He had spent the morning working at his church, helping out on the grounds.

When he left, he obtained the means to take his life, went to a remote area, and completed the task.

When you are depressed, when you are in that circumstance, it is nearly impossible to reason your way out of the thought that 'things will not improve no matter what.' When you are in that moment, the fact that you have a good life, a family who loves you, a good job, or whatever else, is of little consequence.

Your lone thought is getting out from under the pain.

The solution he chose is permanent.

His daughter walks through the house looking for her daddy. She isn't even two years old. She doesn't understand what has happened. His wife is doing her best, but is overwhelmed by her own grief.

This isn't the way it is supposed to happen!

His parents, our dear friends, are setting an amazing godly example for all who look on. So is his wife for that matter.

At his funeral, his wife pleaded with those in attendance to eliminate the stigma of depression and understand the realities of it, and to get help. His father shared the gospel message, and implored others to receive Christ as Savior, as his son had done.

Many lives were and are being, impacted!

After all of this was over, we returned to his parents home for some private time. His brother and wife purchased a flowering tree to plant in his honor. His mother requested we plant it out the kitchen window where she could view it while completing tasks.

It's hard to believe, but just 6 years ago this week, this same family stood beside us as we planted a tree in my sons honor. We have pictures of this same young man and his father as they helped plant it.

The changes forced upon this family will be unpacked daily. They are part of a fraternity they never wanted to pledge. They will mourn daily. The grief will last a lifetime.

They serve a Savior who is bigger than their pain. It doesn't mean they won't feel it. It does mean He will give them the strength and mercy to endure, moment by moment, day by day, until they are in His presence, eternally. On this day, they will be reunited with him.

If you are depressed, please get help. There is no shame in getting healthy. The voice and pervasive lack of reason that one entertains in these dark moments, are not from above. You CAN overcome. You MUST take action. NOW!

It's worth it! He is worth it!


Monday, October 03, 2011

My California family.

This weekend, I spent quite a bit of time in a tree stand, observing and learning from deer behavior.

During this time, I had 15 deer beneath me, and at one point there were 10 at one time. I enjoyed watching them interact. Their system of caring for one another includes everything from grooming to taking turns, to standing guard to protect the others.

I was very impressed. What I observed is not something routinely seen or known. I was enthralled as I watched a group of does, followed by a bachelor group of bucks. Each group exhibited the same behaviors.

What really stood out to me was how one of the group always recognized the need to stand 'sentry' while the others fed. Then, as one feeding had had enough, he/she would go over to the other and replace him/her in the guard post, while that one then fed. It was an impressive system, all done non verbally. They seemed to instinctively know how to care for one another.

I started thinking about believers. When we are operating in a selfless fashion, we do this well. We watch out for our brothers and sisters. We pray for them, share with them, invite them over, meet their needs, etc.

When we get self focused, this tends to go out the window.

There were times when the sentry would sound the alarm, and the field would clear. This would result in the sentry not getting his needs met. He left hungry, but rested in the knowledge that he had protected the others.

This selfless act, no doubt, has spared the life of many deer.

I wonder if we act selflessly often enough. I have so many opportunities to pray for others. If I truly stood "sentry" for them, how would their lives change? What more could I do to impact their lives, that my own selfishness prevents?

When I'm hungry, I'm not usually shy about getting to food. I don't mind "hurrying" others up, so I can have my turn. The idea of missing meals to protect others is a pretty foreign concept in my circles.

Yet, if the missing of the meals is due to fasting for His intervention on their behalf, what better use of my time could their be?

I know there were those who did that for us when my son was in the hospital. I know I have done so for others in the past. But how often is that the place we go when we know others are in need? It is one of the mightiest tools in our arsenal and yet probably one of the least deployed.

I spend a lot of time with students, and have learned that most all of them have never heard a teaching on fasting; not from the pulpit, in small group, or elsewhere.

Some of the sweetest encounters I have had with my Savior have come through fasting.

I bring attention to it because we can have a deep impact on others lives if we become more selfless. I am not saying we all need to fast each time a need is revealed. I am saying there is always more we can do than eat our fill from the sidelines, while others needs overwhelm them in the arena of life.