A swift kick…

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for pastor Mark.  Have you ever had those times in your life when God kept getting your attention, and you just kept hanging your head?  Yeah, it’s been like that…

Today I was out mowing the lawn.  Now, before you begin to wonder if I’m the pastor of a church where I’m everything from the janitor to the groundskeeper, let me put your mind at ease.  I’m not.  The lawn is normally my son’s job, but he’s working at camp this summer.  I decided that it would be easier for me to mow than to have someone else do it, simply because I live next door and I know the church schedule.  I want the yard to look nice before special events, and will make a greater effort to get out before or after rain if something is coming up.

I found out something that Andrew already knew, but that I didn’t care about before.  The yard is a monster.  There is more of it than first appears, and there is a ton of weed eating that has to be done because of the numerous fences around the property.  There have been a couple of times that I’ve been out mowing when it has been 85 degrees just because it had to be done.  That’s not fun when you are out there for 3 hours.

So, today I was out mowing in the cool night air, and being very thankful that Andrew would be home next week!  And then I saw Wesley.

Wesley is a member of our congregation.  He has Cerebral Palsy.  His mind is great, but his body is handicapped, and it takes him some time to get out what he wants to say.  He goes around the neighborhood in a motorized wheelchair.   I hadn’t seen him all summer because he was ministering at a summer camp.  I saw him earlier in the day and spoke to him, but I wasn’t mowing the lawn then.  I was now.  And that’s when God rapped me on the soul…

I had just been whining about the lawn mowing earlier in the day.  I was looking forward to not having to do it again.  But I could.

Wesley doesn’t whine and complain.  I’ve heard his testimony.  He’s learned more spiritually in his young life dealing with his handicap than most of us do in a lifetime.  But I wonder…

I’ll bet Wesley wouldn’t complain if he could mow the lawn.

Name that Parable

From Sunday’s sermon…

The man owed a whole lot of money.  I don’t mean two or three thousand dollars on a Visa, or five or six thousand on an American Express, but he owed a whole lot of money.  He owed close to three million dollars.  The bookie to whom he owed the money called on the phone and told the man to meet him right away.

The man knew that he was in serious trouble.  He had run up those debts and had no way to pay them back. As he drove his ragged old car, all the way to the meeting he tried to think of ways to get enough money to pay back what he owed.  He simply knew that his job as a waiter would never even pay the interest on the money, much less the principle.

When he got to the meeting it was as he had feared.  The bookie wanted all of his money and he wanted it right then.  The man pleaded and begged, but the bookie said that it was over.  “You know that I am a patient man,” said the bookie, “but my patience has run thin.  I need that money and I need it now.  If you can’t get it I will have my boys take care of you and your family.”  Terror spread through the man as he realized that he was not only going to be hurt, but the pain would be spread to his wife and two small girls.  At that news he fell down on his knees crying and begging, “Please, just give me a little more time to pay back the three million.  I am expecting a big tip at my waiter’s job tonight.  Please don’t hurt my family, just give me a little more time.”  The bookie felt something that he very rarely felt, compassion.  He had seen the two small girls and they were beautiful, so he did something that he had never done before.  He said to the man “O.K. I tell you what I am going to do.  I am going to forget all about this debt.  I shouldn’t do this, and you do not deserve it, but I am going to have pity on you.  Don’t you ever forget what I have done for you.”

The man was astounded.  He was free.  The debt that had plagued him for almost his entire adult life had been taken away.  It was almost too incredible to believe.  He looked carefully at the bookie, thinking that this might be some kind of cruel joke, but he saw a look of compassion in his eyes and knew that his debt had been forgiven.

He walked outside of the restaurant where the meeting had taken place and he saw a friend, another waiter, who owed him three dollars.  “Hey do you have that three dollars that you owe me?” he cried out angrily. “No, please just give me a little time, I am expecting some good tips tonight,” his friend replied in a frightened tone.  The waiter was not content to wait for his three dollars, but grabbed his friend by the neck and began choking him.  “Give me the three dollars. I know that you can pay,” he said.  Finally his friend lost consciousness and he left him there, beaten and bruised, on the side of the street, in front of the restaurant.

What the man did not realize was that there were other waiters standing around.  When they saw what the man had done, they were shocked, especially because they had heard that he had been forgiven of millions of dollars.  They could not believe that a man who had been forgiven of millions, would choke a friend over three bucks, so they called the bookie.

“Is it true that you forgave a man of several million dollars today?”  “Yes, why do you ask?” he said.  When they told him of the waiter choking his friend into unconsciousness, the bookie was astounded.  He called the man and demanded another meeting.

“What is wrong with you?” the bookie shouted!  “I forgive you millions of dollars and you choke a man over a lousy three bucks.  Here is your three bucks” the bookie yelled as he threw three one dollar bills at the man.  “But forget about the forgiveness of your debt.  You owe me the money and you owe it to me now.”  With that the bookie’s friend’s, Vito and Johnny, came in and took the man out back and he was never heard from again, though some say that if you walk by the abandoned warehouse down by the docks, you can still hear him screaming at night.

This is what God our Father will do to you if you fail to forgive your brother or sister from your heart. (Samuel Lamerson, Knox Theological Seminary).

Valentine Banquet Devotion

There are four basic Greek words for love: eros, phileo, storge, and agape.  C.S. Lewis talks about them in his book “The Four Loves.”  We’re going to take some of his insights as well as some Biblical insights and talk about “The Four Loves in Marriage.”

Lets talk about agape first.  Lewis calls it charity.  It can be considered a generic word for love, not having the warmth or intensity of the others.  It’s the word used in John 3:16, which says “God so loved the world…”  It’s used so often in Scripture for God’s love that it’s considered to be something special, but it really is generic.  We are to love our enemies (Matthew), love the brethren (1 Peter), and love our spouses (Ephesians).  This is the love we are to have for everyone!  The passage that best describes this love, as well as showing us how to behave in marriage, is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”

Next up is storge, or affection.  It’s the love of a parent for a child or the love of a child for a parent.  It’s a very natural kind of love.  It can happen outside of family relationships too, and, when it does, it just seems to happen.  It has no particular starting point, but develops over time as you become fond of someone.  Eventually you find that you are comfortable with them and have a certain level of affection for them.  As Lewis says, there is “no need to talk; no need to make love; no need at all except to stoke the fire.”  It’s mentioned in Romans 12:10 where Paul says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.”  It can be cultivated in a marriage relationship by learning to laugh with and enjoy each other.  Remember that everyone has quirks.  We can continue to be annoyed by them, or we can laugh and accept, which leads to affection.

Phileo was mentioned in Romans 12:10 along with storge.  Lewis calls this love friendship, and sees it as the least natural.  “Without eros no-one is begotten; without affection no-one is reared.”  In other words, you can live and breed without friendship!  It’s different from eros in other ways as well.  Lewis says that “Lovers talk about their love.  Friends hardly ever talk about their friendship.  Lovers sit face to face, absorbed in each other.  Friends sit side by side, absorbed in common interests.”  This love is mentioned by Jesus in John 15:15 where he says, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my father, I have made know to you.”  How is this love cultivated in marriage?  By spending time together, talking together, and finding common interests that you can share in.  This love will make your marriage the most rewarding relationship you have.  Don’t neglect it!  To many couples raise their children and find that they are married to strangers after the kids have grown.  Make you wife your best friend now and you’ll never regret it!

Last, but certainly not least, we have eros, or erotic love.  It’s not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but it’s certainly alluded to.  Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5: “” Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Do you know what this means men?  It means that you can live without sex, at least for a time!  The ESV says “for a short time” in verse 5, but they’re basing that translation on practicality and sense rather than the actual Greek words!  But notice ladies, that it is only for a time, and that there is supposed to be a spiritual reason for it: fasting and praying.  In other words, you’re taking time away from your physical relationship with each other to work on your relationship with God.    I hope that men don’t come up to me over the next few weeks saying, “My wife’s praying and she doesn’t have time for me!”  It’s supposed to be a mutual decision.  But I do want to give you men some advice, and it may be the most important advice you ever receive.  If you want your wife to be more open to this type of love, focus on phileo, agape, and storge.  If you focus on those three, eros will come.