Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Don't Make Yourself Important"

The title of this article comes from the little, non-inspired heading in my Bible that comes before verses 7-11 of Luke 14. Jesus is teaching on humility as he is watching people come into the home of a leading Pharisee and "were choosing the best places to sit." It seems that people were coming into this home and taking the best seats, so they could be recognized as someone who is important.

The Pharisees loved to do this didn't they? They just loved to make themselves look important by the way they dressed. They loved to make themselves sound important by praying verbose prayers to God. They wanted to come across as more spiritual by announcing when they would fast or when they would do good deeds (see Matt. 6). And now here, in Luke 14, we find some of these "guests” scrambling for the best seats in this leading Pharisees house so they will be recognized as people who are important.

Our society struggles w/ humility doesn’t it? How many times have we seen an athlete make a great play and then beat his chest, raise his hands in the air, or do some ridiculous dance, as if to say, “Look how great I am”? How many times do we hear of celebrities announcing a specific dollar amount that they are giving to charity?
Now perhaps we have come to expect this sort of thing from those people. But what about us? Ever get a little upset that your child’s name wasn’t spelled right in the paper? Or that some of the information about you in the article was a little off? Or that one team was on the front page and yours wasn’t? Perhaps at the core of your disappointment is the fact that you, your child or your team wasn’t being recognized as “great” like you thought they should be.

The lesson that Jesus gives is that, “All who make themselves great will be made humble, but those who make themselves humble will be made great” (vs. 11). Once again, Jesus turns things upside-down as he redefines what true greatness is. It seems to me that true greatness is found in those who are humble and not in those who need recognition for their deeds, donations, or accomplishments.

Jesus knows where our hearts are “sitting” and whether it desires the important seats that make us look great. Let us learn to be humble and take the seats of less importance so that “When the host comes to you, he may say, Friend, move up here to a more important place.”

~ Brian

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

That is what we do- Spring Break 2011, B La B

“Want to thank our church family from Searcy, Arkansas for a great week of hard work and great fellowship. They worked in the community, worked with our children programs, and handed out food to the needy and so much more. Thanks again!” This is a wall post from the Hemley Road church of Christs’ Facebook page as they expressed their appreciation for us coming to Bayou LaBatre, Alabama to partner with them in their effort to make the good news known to the “B La B” community. While I am not exactly sure who posted it, it does speak on behalf of the church family, as a whole, in this small expression of gratitude. Yet, we cannot take the credit for what we did last week. We will not boast in ourselves for the yards that were mowed, the lots that were cleared of branches, for the cemetery that was cleaned, or the food and clothes that were handed out to those in need. We will not boast in ourselves for teaching the kids with a puppet show, for the love and encouragement that was offered, for the fellowship we shared with the Hemley Road family, or for the songs we sang in worship to God on a beach as the sun was setting behind us. No, we will not boast in ourselves about these works and the many other good things that took place last week in B La B. But with humility, we give thanks to God for allowing us the time, energy, funds, transportation, chaperones, food, and housing as all of the glory goes to him and not to us. Paul wrote, “God made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing” (Ephesians 2:10; NCV). This past week was hard as some dealt with blisters, allergies, and fatigue. But this week was also fun filled as we laughed, played card games, made new friendships, and got to know one another better. And who can forget about the weeklong game of “Mafia?” All that said, we returned to Bayou LaBatre because “God made us to do good works, which God planned in advanced for us to live our lives doing.” In short, we were simply doing, what we were made to do. We were made to do good works. Sometimes that means we take a mission trip and sometimes that means we go get the mail for our neighbors. And however that looks in our individual lives or in the life of the whole Cloverdale family, we can’t deny that we are to live our lives doing the work God planned for us to do, not so we can boast in ourselves, but so the world will see how gracious and loving God is. That is what we do, BW

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"The Person Who Give Happily"

Last Thursday, my son Lincoln found a dime somewhere in the house. He was so excited about finding it b/c he is beginning to realize the value of money and that he can buy stuff w/ it. So he kept track of it the whole day but b/c he is a typical 5 year, he set it down on the entertainment center and forgot about it.

Sunday came and I knew he was going to want to put some money in the collection plate when it was time. So on my way out the door, I saw his dime was still sitting where he left it so I grabbed it to give to him.

When we got to the church building, I had to run upstairs to do a few things for classes and Lincoln came w/ me. While were upstairs, I pulled out his dime and told him he could put it in the collection plate, giving it to God.

This is when things got interesting b/c it seemed that Lincoln didn't want to give the dime away b/c it was his dime. Afterall, HE found it right? And that is exactly what he told me. However, w/ no time to explain the theology of giving in a way a 5 year old could understand, I was still able to convince him that he still needed to give it to God and put it in the collection plate. So we left it at that and went downstairs to take our seat in the pew.

Then the moment of truth came. The plates were being passed and Lincoln, reluctantly pulls out his dime and stares at it, then looks at me and then looks at mom, and says w/ his bottom lip sticking out, "I don't want to give it away." Yet, when the plate stopped right in front of Lincoln, he dropped his dime in the plate. Needless to say, Lincoln was not giving happily.

I wonder how many of us are like this? How many times do we either not give or if we do give, we don't have the right attitude. The "it" can be anything; money, time, resources, food, clothes, etc. But b/c we think it belongs to us, we don't give it away or we give with sadness.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give b/c you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily" (2 Cor. 9:7, NCV).

When we arrived home, Lincoln came up to me w/ a dollar in his hand. Apparently, later that morning, a man came up to Lincoln and gave it to him. I'm not sure who it was but b/c he knew Lincoln's birthday was the next day, he gave him a dollar. WOW...a whole dollar!! You can imagine how excited Lincoln was to have it.

So I tried to use this opportunity to remind Lincoln about how God blesses us w/ so much more when we give him the little we have. Paul said it better in verse 8, "And God can give you more blessings than you need."

Now, you and I know that it was just a dime.....not worth much. But to Lincoln it was money and he thought it was his. But the reality is, it wasn't ever Lincoln's dime, it was God's. In fact, nothing that we have is ours b/c it all belongs to God and he gives it to us, to use while we live here.
The question then becomes, if everything (i.e. money, time, homes, cars, food, clothes, etc) we have was given to us by God, then how would God expect us to use it?

Paul continues his letter saying, "He will make you rich in every way so that you can always give freely...." (v. 11).

The answer is clear w/ what we are to do w/ the "riches" God has given us; "give freely." This means that if God gives things to us b/c we have a need, we ought to give them away to those who have a need.

Guess what Lincoln found on Monday? You guessed it, another dime. Only this time he was the one who told me he was going to give it to God on Sunday. Lesson learned? Perhaps.

How about us?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In Revelation ch. 3:14ff, Jesus tells the church in Laodicea, "I know what you do, that you are not hot or cold. I wish that you were hot or cold! But b/c you are lukewarm- neither hot, nor cold- I am ready to spit you out of my mouth" (NCV).

I can understand why Jesus would want to spit a "lukewarm" church out of his mouth b/c, if you take the metaphor of water, lukewarm water doesn't taste good. And a lukewarm church isn't what Jesus wants. But what he does want is a church that is either hot or cold.

Why hot or cold? Well, keeping w/ the metaphor, water that is hot or cold is more useful than water that is lukewarm.

If you consider hot water, it can be used for cleaning wounds, scratches, and cuts. In other words, hot water can be the first thing that can help in the healing process. What if the church was the first thing in healing process for people? I mean, when the church is hot, we can be the first thing that helps people heal from their brokenness, hurts, and pain.

If you consider cold water, it can be a great source of refreshment. In fact, studies prove that runners who drink cold water before they run and while they are running, can run longer distances. Why? B/c it provides a refreshing boast of energy.
We live in a crazy, hurried, fast paced world and everyone needs a "cup of cold water" (Matt. 10:42). What if the church was the place that provided the much needed refreshment this world desparately needs? In other words, when a church is like cold water, it provides, not only the church, a refreshing boast of energy to help "us run the race that is before us and never give up" (Heb 12:1) but it also provides the world a new, refreshing look at what it means to follow Jesus.

So what will the church be? A hot, healing source for the broken and hurting or a cold, refreshing boast for the tired and burdened? Jesus gives us the choice in Revelation 3; we can be either hot or cold but may we never be lukewarm.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Faithful Persistence

In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus has an encounter with a Canaanite woman, who's daughter is demon possessed. As this woman was crying out to Jesus, over and over again she is addressing him as "Lord" knowing that he is the only one who can help her.

Now the strange thing about this story is that she calls out to Jesus four times, but after the first three pleas for help, Jesus doesn't respond like we would think. After her first cry to him, he just ignores her and then after the second, he tells her, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." And then, after she falls to her knees in total desperation and asks for help a third time, he tells her, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

Wow! Really Jesus? Where is the love? Where is the compassion?

Sometimes this is how we feel when we approach the throne of God in prayer and we don't get what we want. There are times when we are just begging and crying out to God over and over and it seems like we are just being ignored by God or that he has some more important people to help. But perhaps, this is just a test to see how faithful we will be.

Finally, this woman tells Jesus, "Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." And it is in this moment that Jesus gets what he wanted out of this woman; a persistent faith. Jesus says, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted."
If this woman would of quit praying, her daughter never would have been healed. How many times have you quit praying to God?

A lot of times when we don't get what we want from God we give up and stop praying. But we have to remember that when we pray, it's not just about what we want, but what God wants. And what God wants is for us to have a faithful, persistent prayer life. That means, God never wants us to stop talking to him, asking him for things, and being faithfully persistent in doing so.

May we have a faithful persistence in our prayers to God,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Then they forgot me"

Hosea 13:4-6: "But I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”

In Hosea 13:4-5, God reminds the people of Israel of five things, “I am the Lord your God”, He brought them out of Egypt, the command to “acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me”, He took care of them in the desert and fed them and they were satisfied.

God is so good isn’t he? He has blessed us beyond what we deserve. I imagine that most of us reading this article have food, clothes, and shelter. I imagine that most of us have some kind of income or have parents with good jobs that provide an income.
Our God is so good!

We have been blessed to live in United States of America and all of the freedoms we enjoy. We have the freedom to come a building every Sunday and worship our good God. And because we live in this country, we enjoy the luxuries of good medicine, technology, and education.
Our God is so good!

Yet most importantly, we have been set free from sin because of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is because of the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s only Son, Jesus, that we are washed clean of our sins, have hope in eternal glory with the Father, and we can stand before him with confidence on the day of judgment, knowing that we belong to him.
Our God is so good!

And we like the Israelites have been reminded of the same things from Hosea 13:4-5. But a troubling thing happened to them that we need to be warned of today. God said in verse 6,

“When they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”

It is hard to imagine that a people who have been incredibly blessed by a God who is so good could actually forget about the One from which the blessings come from. But this is exactly what happened to the Israelites and could very well happen to us to just as easy.

We have been given everything we need by God. Let’s not forget Him.

We have been blessed to live in this country because of God. Let’s not forget Him.

We have forgiveness and are set free from our sins because of God. Let’s not forget Him.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time for an Upgrade

I just got a new cell phone b/c I was eligible for an upgrade. Not only was I eligible for a new phone but I was in desperate need of one b/c some how at some point my old phone had obtained some water damage. I don't know how this happened b/c I am very protective of my phone. So needless to say, I was very annoyed that my phone was damaged b/c I couldn't hear people or they couldn't here me, my texts weren't going through or it was sending duplicate texts, and I found myself feeling some what disconnected not being able to communicate. So, my eligibility for an upgrade came at the right time.

There are a lot of times when we need to upgrade our lives and I would say that most of us are very desperate and very eligible. First, I don't mean that we need to buy some new "thing" to make us feel good. We don't need to spend our time and energy pursuing status, recognition, and the favor of people so that we can have some kind of meaning in our lives. That "stuff" will only leave us more empty than we were before.

What I mean by upgrading our lives is that we need to get rid of the old life we are living and live the life God made us for. In John 10:10, Jesus said, "The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

There is one who has come steal away our joy, kill our relationship w/ God, and destroy our relationships w/ our families. But Jesus comes to give us a full life. This isn't the get rich quick or feel good gospel either. This is a life for those who are in Jesus, who know him, and are free from sin, guilt, and shame. Its for those who want Jesus as their shepherd, master, teacher, friend and will follow him where ever he leads.

Yet, I believe that most of us aren't living the full life Jesus made us for. I see us sometimes just going through the motions in our lives, living day to day in our routines, and have become stagnant and complacent. We find ourselves living w/out purpose or meaning. We find ourselves bored and apathetic. We find ourselves drifting away from what God wants for our lives. We find ourselves complaining and being ungrateful for what we have. And we find ourselves sitting in worship just singing along, taking communion, giving our money, distracted while praying, and tuning out the preacher. And b/c of this, we find ourselves, like me w/ my phone: damaged and disconnected.

Jesus has a word for this type of living. He called it being "lukewarm" when he addressed the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:16a). The problem w/ the church there was they thought that b/c they were so rich and wealthy they didn't need anything (v. 17). And b/c of this Jesus says, "I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (v. 16b).

There is something that God finds disgusting when we live "lukewarm" lives. There is something he finds repulsive when are stagnant, complacent, and just going through the motions. And when it comes to the way we treat worship it angers him when, "These people (this would be us) come near to me w/ their mouth and honor me w/ their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Is. 29:13).

Perhaps this is where you are and believe me, I've been there too. If this is the case, then we are long over due for an upgrade of our hearts. God doesn't want people who claim to follow Jesus, living "lukewarm" lives. He wants our hearts b/c only when He has it, will our worship be acceptable to Him. Only then will we have a sense of purpose, focus, and mission. And only then will we be so connected to God that we will begin to live the full life, he died for us to live.