Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Measure of A Man

I know that it's only been five days since my last post, but a lot is going on and the time is available, so here it goes (short as it may be). While I believe I'm getting some direction in my walk of faith, frankly, I woke up this morning feeling scared again...afraid of the unknown...all of the things I can't control. Been there? I'm sure you have!

One of the interesting things I am realizing is that "fear of the unknown" is quite a misnomer, because frankly, it's about 99% unknown. Matter of fact, the more I know, the more I am aware that I know almost nothing at all. The things that tend to bring me peace, calm, stability and assurance are not known at all - but the regular gifts from my Heavenly Father (on a totally unpredictable, but perfect schedule).

What I do know is that whether my current faith venture "succeeds" or not will depend a great deal on how well I obey...how well I follow where the Lord leads me. Graciously, He doesn't force me to go anywhere (love doesn't do that). But He does bid me to come and follow where He leads, and His paths are always for the ultimate good of both others and myself. So, last week's question remains: Will I trust Him?

I have no idea where the path of obedience will lead me, other than the fact that it will lead me towards Christ...and to be more like Him. The path might bring prosperity, notoriety, influence or power. On the other hand, it might bring want, obscurity, or isolation. Contrary to most thinking, though, what I perceive to be "the destination" won't be at all, for the purpose of this faith walk is not to take me somewhere as much as it is to teach me to walk.

Thus, "success" in this journey will not be measured by the end result, but whether I take the journey at all. If Scripture has taught me anything, it is that "obedience is success." May the Lord find me obedient...wherever it ends up taking me...so that others may see Him in me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where's The Line?

I have a confession of sorts to make: It is frequently easier to tell someone what they should do than to actually do it for yourself. No surprise, huh? You all have known this for years (as have I) but recent circumstances have led me to a fresh wrestling with a question that I'd like to pose to you...and I welcome your input and feedback.

Here's the question: Where is the line between "faith" and just being "stupid"? It's usually not hard to discern this in hindsight, but doing it in "real time" can pose quite a challenge. I could easily recount many times where a step of faith has been taken and there have been some tremendous rewards/benefits/blessings from doing so. But I can just as easily remember times where I was just plain stupid (upon looking back) and brought about some pretty significant challenges (actually, that's an understatement - some really hard things had to be dealt with).

As a pastor, I'm quite familiar with the Bible's teaching (and absolutely believe it) that rather we make the "right" or "wrong" choice, God is more than capable of using it, redeeming it, and making it into something pretty amazing. But truthfully, I'd rather not "screw up" in the first place! So how do you know where the line is? How can I make sure I'm making a true "faith" decision and not being plain "stupid"?

As you might have guessed, I'm trying to make some decisions right now that, to me, appear to be fairly significant, and I want to get it "right" so badly. One of the ironies of this predicament is that while it hasn't arisen recently, it has been accentuated recently through my very own preaching (as the Lord has led me). Believe me, if my goal had been to avoid dealing with this, I wouldn't have asked the Lord (as always) for help in my sermon preparation...I'd have just picked something "safe" that everyone else needed to hear!

Sorry - you're not going to get any more details than that on my situation, but I'd love to hear from you. God has directed me so often from people, places and situations that were "off the radar" - so He may just want to use you right now to help me. Go figure! And I'm the one who's supposed to have the answers! Email me at necchurch@netins.net - I promise that I'll respond and let you know how this all turns out. "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


“Let us not become weary in doing what is right, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not get tired and give up.” Galatians 6:9

A very common leisure activity for people in the summer is water-skiing. I’ve always been amazed at the gracefulness of those skilled in this refreshing sport, but never embraced the challenge of trying to do it for myself until after my wife, Tonya, and I started dating. While her parents did not have a monster boat for skiing, it was more than adequate to get my 200# out of the water…and then some. Understand this: Tonya and her family all ski beautifully, and Tonya’s mother skied until she was 70 years old…there were no “skiing slouches” in her family!

Well the day came for my “baptism” of sorts behind the ski boat and frankly, I was nervous. Water and I got along just slightly better than water & electricity do, but I was determined (by vanity & a desire to “fit into” this family) to learn to water ski. I had never received instruction, but simply observed the rest of the family, so with their encouragement to “just stand up after the boat starts pulling,” I donned my ski vest and plopped into the dark, deep, but calm reservoir waters of Mississiniwa Reservoir in Indiana. They assured me that “it’s easy,” but as my father says, “Anything’s easy if you know how!”

Fifteen minutes passed…then thirty…then an hour…I still hadn’t “stood up” while being pulled, and I was getting beat up! Every time I tried to stand, I’d get pulled over the front of my skis and make some pretty spectacular crashes, I’m sure. They began to encourage me with words like, “Guess today’s not your day…we’ll come again and you can start fresh,” but I was determined to persevere.

Finally, at about the ninety-minute mark, the determination (or pride or fear of embarrassment) paid off and suddenly I was up, cruising along and having the time of my life. I certainly needed the rest, so I rode around the reservoir for quite a while before I “wiped out” and was picked up by the boat. I’ll never forget what Tonya’s dad, Bob, said as I climbed into the boat: “I’ve never seen anyone try so long to get up, not succeed, and not give up in my life!”

It was a great day of accomplishment, and I’d love to tell you that my entire life has been characterized by this attitude, but it hasn’t. What I can tell you is that perseverance is one of the great characteristics Christ wants to be a part of our daily lives. It absolutely needs to be in our lives, or we’ll never “reap [the] harvest” that God has waiting for us. I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I want to encourage you to “not become weary…do not get tired and give up” and persevere until your harvest...it is more than worth the effort!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Matters Most

I have been blessed! I mean it...ridiculously blessed. Those of you that know me may or may not be aware of that, but I dare say that your perspective on my life might be a little different if you knew that:
  • I have moved so many times that it exceeds both hands to count
  • I have seen my father crushed twice - by a falling tree & a concrete beam
  • I have a family member who is partially disabled from an accident
  • I have watched my family lose everything in a bank foreclosure
  • I have two family members who have had to deal with life-threatening tumors
  • I have watched a large portion of our farm burn to the ground (as a teen)
  • I have undergone multiple back surgeries - all before the age of 40
  • I have wrestled with life & death more times than I can count
  • I have survived a totalled vehicle when we could have all been dead
  • And there's more (just not here today)

I list those things because sometimes it's easy to look at any given person and think, "Wow - they've got it made!" and have little or no idea as to what their lives really look like...you know, out of the public eye. It's far too easy to assume that because someone's life looks good, that it has been easy. The simple fact is that one of the biggest lessons I've learned in my life is that everyone has a story (and often it's an amazing one that is just waiting to be told and heard).

Those of you who frequent this blog might remember that I had the opportunity to "get away" like I've never done before, spending a week with family in the Caribbean. What you don't know is that last week I also got to spend some wonderful days with the rest of my family in Indiana.

And as I've paused and reflected on both first-rate experiences, I have been overwhelmed with the fact that I have been blessed! Not necessarily with the things you might first think of, but with the things that matter most. No, my life has been far from easy (just like yours), but in spite of all the trials, pains & fears, it has been good!

Part of me wishes that I could give you a secret formula for enjoying this "good life" but a much more real part is glad that I cannot, because frankly, if this blessing had been dependent upon my own skills, abilities or merits, it would have been forfeited long ago! No, it has nothing to do with what I deserve and everything to do with whom I serve...the Lord Jesus Christ (I guess you might argue that He is the formula).

Now some would say, "But if you serve Him, why has He let all these things happen to you?" And the truth is, I don't know (at least not fully - some things maybe never). But what I do know is that no matter what has come my way, He has always been faithful to provide me what I need (not what I want, thankfully, for my wants are too often misinformed).

He has blessed me with many deep friendships, always placing people around me who have loved me, prayed for me and encouraged me. He has given me opportunities to see His working as He transformed lives every place I have been. He has given me a family I don't deserve: a beautiful wife of almost 24 years, 3 amazing kids (after we were declared "infertile"), and 2 sets of parents who model Christ to me unwaveringly. He has spared me when I was foolish, forgiven me when I was rash, healed me when I was broken, and restored me when I despaired. On top of all that, there are inumerable things I have not had to endure!

I'm sure that you don't have all the things your heart desires (just like me), but if you'll pause, even for a moment, I believe you'll find that even the roughest journeys have been blessed with so many of the things that matter most...the things we need. I pray that even in this moment, you will have a fresh realization of the goodness of God. Not because you've got it all, but because He's been faithful to give you what you need. Trust His promise today from 2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."