Sometimes people just hit the nail on the head. They say the right thing. They give a wonderfully surprising answer to the questions of life.
Here is one of my favorite examples.
Recently I had two separate conversations about the ministries of my Church with people. Both of them described what we were doing as a Church and neither of them was right about what they said. As we continued to talk I realized how misinformed the person actually was about the ministry. Those encounters got me thinking about a couple of problems with information.
1. Lack of Information. Neither of these people had any first-hand information about what they were talking about. They had heard bits and pieces from several people but simply did not have the whole story. I find that all people, including Church people, form opinions about people and ministries without having accurate information.
2.Biased Information. When you get your information about people and things from other people, you need to understand that it is coming through their personal lens. This can work two ways.
-First is the Negative Lens. It is hard to imagine but some people have negative views of people and ministries no matter what actually happens. As my friend used to say, “Some people are not happy unless they are unhappy.”
Honestly, sometimes this is deserved. I have held ministry events that were terrible. Things went wrong in every way and it was not a good experience. That does not mean all of my events are poor or that the people involved are incompetent.
-Second is the Positive Lens. There are some people who see the good in everything. The glass is always half full and they see the best in all events. Sometimes this is a personality thing and sometimes this is the result of their confidence in the leader. If you were a part of a life changing event then the next time it happens you know it will be great.
One of the hard parts of life is forming your own opinions and ideas about people and events. For you to form accurate concepts you need to experience it for yourself. You even need to ask questions about your own personal bias.
So the next time you start to praise a person or event. Ask yourself if you are being biased and have the right information. Then spread the praise.
And the next time you start to bad mouth something or someone, ask yourself if you have first-hand accurate information that is not biased. If you do, then take your right hand and lift it up and put it firmly over your mouth. I was taught, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
There is a great photo that is circulating the web…and the story behind it is just as good.
The picture is below and HERE is the story
I love to fish. I mean, I LOVE it. Over the Memorial Day weekend I was able to go fishing three times. I went early Saturday morning and late evening on Sunday and Monday. On my fishing trips I was able to see dozens of other people who enjoy fishing. I say that many of them “enjoy fishing,” but very few of them love it.
Let me tell you the whole story. On Friday I went and purchased bait because no bait store opens before daylight. Then I woke up at 3:30 am on Saturday and loaded everything up and took off. I drove for an hour to the dock and arrived just before the sun came up. The public fishing docks were empty and there was no sign of anyone for another hour. Most of the people like sleeping in, then grabbing breakfast, hitting the bait store before heading to the fishing hole. They don’t mind arriving later in the morning.
On my evening trips I headed down in the late afternoon and waited for the spot I wanted to open. I purchased extra minnows so that I would not run out and have to run and get more. Then I stayed until it was totally dark. I had even packed a light in case the fish were still biting after dark. Both nights I watched as people left the dock around six so that they could go home and get something to eat. But the end of the night there was only a couple of people left fishing with me. Oh, and the rain really drives them away.
On all three occasions the fish were biting the first hour of the day or the last hour of the evening. The majority of people totally missed it. They came to late or left to early to really get in on the good fishing. I am convinced that is because most people only like to fish if it is convenient. They like to fish and enjoy doing it, if it is easy and fits their schedule. They would never get up early or stay out late just to catch a fish.
I tell you all of this as a metaphor. I think the Church is full of people who enjoy life with Jesus, but they do not love him. They are never willing to rise early or stay up late. They like Church and will go, if it fits their schedule. Sacrifice is not part of their language or lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the Christian life is not very convenient. The greatest rewards of faith are given to those who sacrifice their time and treasure.
An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
“Well,” said the farmer, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”
“Praise choruses?” said his wife, “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.”
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.
The farmer said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you: `Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:
`Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, MARTHA, MARTHA, MARTHA,
the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows,
the white cows, the black and white cows,
the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn,
are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,
the CORN, CORN, CORN.’
Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus.”
A young, new Christian went to his local church one weekend and attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
“Well,” said the young man, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”
“Hymns?” said his wife, “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man.
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.
The young man said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you, `Martha, the cows are in the corn,’
Well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:
Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.
For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.
Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on
the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”
Here are a few posts worth reading if you get stuck inside by the rain this holiday weekend.
* BONUS – We will doing a sermon series over this book and concept in the fall –
Finding Your Way Back to God
Picture three boys in a store like Wal-mart. They appear unsupervised and they are playing rough with each other. The poke and push and one of them grabs a foam rope and throws it around the neck of one of the other boys. He acts for a couple of seconds like he is choking the other boy. They push each other away and grab at each other in one of the aisles.
You see this scene unfold. Now, what conclusions can you draw? What judgement would you make about those boys and their family?
I tell you this story because it happened to me. My boys were rough housing around the back of the store while I stepped into the restroom. A lady worker saw them and yelled at them. She then got another worker to help keep an eye on them. Together they followed the boys through the store and out the door.
Her judgement appeared to be that these boys were teenage hooligans. Probably from broken homes. They had no respect for themselves or others. High risk of breaking something or stealing something. She saw the boys and quickly made a judgement about their character. I watched most of it unfold with curiosity seeing what would transpire between my boys and her. Eventually my boys stopped and waved at her nicely as they exited and she charged to the door in anger. Her judgement on these boys was clear.
Now – Let me give you the whole story. Me and my three oldest boys went to Indiana to spend time with my parents and help do some project for them since my dad had his stroke. We traveled on Monday and just did some visiting and planning. Tuesday we helped my dad clean his boat, pack it and get all his gear ready. We eventually took mom and dad fishing and got them out to do something they could not do on their own. On Wed. we woke up to help my sweet 80-year-old parents do a long list of chores. The boys worked in the garden, mowed, spread mulch and a few other miscellaneous things. It was starting to sprinkle a little rain and we ran to town to buy them some groceries and stopped at a store called Big R to get some tomato plants. A couple of their plants had died and needed replacing. These boys stood outside in the cold helping me get the plants and load them up. Finally, I said I needed to go to the bathroom. They followed me in to warm up and started rough housing.
The reality. These were three Christian boys who were helping their grandparents out for three days. They were being supervised and knew right from wrong. Plus, I know they would never actually hurt their brother – or anyone else for that matter.
I watched this and thought about her snap judgment of my boys.
Then I thought about my snap judgement of her. I assume she was a bitter, lonely old lady who hated her job and desperately needed Jesus. Was I right? I will never know for sure, but I bet I am not.
The truth is that all of us make quick judgments about people we do not know. Unfortunately, many times we are very wrong. The girl with the dyed hair, they guy with the tattoos, the lady with the rowdy kids, the older man with the scooter and a host of others may not be who I think they are. Be careful about judging anyone, but especially be careful about character judgments. People are not always as they appear.
There are several phrases in the Bible that I have never really taught. I think about them often but rarely fit them into a sermon or a lesson. One such passage is from the book of 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV) But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
I have preached about the role of an evangelist. I have taught lessons on how Church leadership is not to do all the ministry but hand off their work to gifted members. But I have never spoke about my favorite phrase in the passage, “Keep your head in all situations.” The notes to the Life Application Bible says it means, “To keep cool when you are jarred and jolted by people or circumstances.”
A Christian, especially a Church leader, is supposed to keep his head in all situations. A Christian is to be calm under pressure. When things go wrong they are level-headed and make good decisions. When things are going well they remain grounded in their faith. It doesn’t mean they have no emotions, rather they do not let their emotions rule their words and actions.
As a believer, right now life might be throwing you all kinds of curves, but you keep our head in all situations.
Yesterday afternoon my brother and I, along with three of my sons loaded up my parents and went fishing. We brought home a few fish to fry tonight and one of my sons caught a nice catfish. Compared to many of my fishing trips with my parents it was not our best outing. But yesterday was different because it was not really about catching that many fish. It was about getting my folks out and spending time with my family.
A few Years ago country singer Trace Adkins had a song entitled “Just Fishin'” about a day fishing with his daughter. The chorus says –
And she thinks we’re just fishin’ on the riverside
Throwin’ back what we could fry
Drownin’ worms and killin’ time
Nothin’ too ambitious
She ain’t even thinkin’ ‘bout
What’s really goin’ on right now
But I guarantee this memory’s a big’in
And she thinks we’re just fishin’
These experiences have me thinking about Jesus. How much of his time with his 12 disciples was spent doing average things? Sure he did miracles and delivered sermons but he was also with them on the seashore, walking through fields and attending weddings. I don’t think this was by accident but rather a time to learn and grow in a very normal setting.
For me the applications are numerous:
-Connecting to other people is most often done in the everyday events of life, not organized small groups.
-Teaching people about the Lord should not be confined to a Church building. It is also done in the everyday events.
-Much of what we teach (or learn) is caught from what we see and not taught in a lecture.
-Lasting memories are most often not “big events” but simple experiences.
I enjoyed my day yesterday and it will be a lasting memory for me. I hope my parents remember it and I hope my kids saw about how much I care about my parents. For me, it was more than just fishing.
I hope you have something that you do in life that is more than just …