Building Trust

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Two country fellows met on a back road one afternoon. One was going down the road with a possum-hunting dog and the other said to him, “How much will you take for the dog?” The owner quoted a price of $100 and declared the dog was an excellent hunter. The other fellow accepted the price and wrote out a check on the spot and handed it over. The owner shook his head and gave the check back. The check’s good,” the buyer said. I’m a trustee in the Methodist Church. So the owner took the check and handed over the dog. A little bit later he met his uncle and asked him. Uncle Josh, what does it mean to be a trustee in the Methodist Church? Uncle Josh replied, “I’m not sure, but I think it’s something like being a deacon in the Baptist Church.” “Oh, shucks,” the man said, “there goes my dog.”

Trust can be very difficult for some people, especially if we have been burned a few times. If we have bought a lemon of a car, we are not likely to go back to that dealer. If we loaned a tool to our neighbor and he never returned it, we are less likely to loan anything else to them. If our marriage ended because our spouse was unfaithful to us, we are less likely to trust new people in our lives.

Imagine yourself going down the road of life and you come to a vital crossroads.
Standing there at the crossroads are the following three figures: A pastor who never finishes his sermon until late Saturday night, a pastor who always has his sermon finished and polished by Thursday noon, and the Easter Bunny. “Which of these three would you ask for directions?” The answer is: The pastor who never finishes his sermon until late Saturday night. The other two are both figments of your imagination.

What does it take to develop trust and what does it take to keep trust? TRUST IS NOT BLIND. It is hard to trust those whom you don’t know. This is why in very large churches, the church is often divided into small groups. You trust people that you know better than people you do not know. Hezekiah trusted in the LORD! He was an unusual man, because he had a personal relationship with God, generations before the New Testament came. He was twenty-five years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, he removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. God saw his good work.

TRUST NEEDS BOUNDARIES. Unlimited trust is unrealistic. Unlimited trust is not healthy. I say to my teenager as they go out the door, “Be home by eleven.” “O, Dad, the party won’t be over before 1:00 a.m.” So? “Everyone else’s parents are letting them stay out late.” We don’t go by everyone else’s standards! Boundaries keep the trust in place as well as providing limits for all of us to live within. God gave the Ten Commandments, not because he didn’t trust us. But because he loved us.

TRUST REQUIRES CONSTANT LEARNING. We learn from our successes and our mistakes. Trust is gained from a study of God’s word. The more time I spend in reading and studying the Bible the easier it is to trust God.

TRUST IS TOUGH. Trust is hard to regain when broken. A spouse that has been unfaithful, will always carry that scare. Trust holds each of us to a high standard or morals and commitment. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? I pastored a man caught in bank fraud.

TRUST NEEDS BONDING. I watched the movie “Horse Whisperer.” The wife takes her daughter from Connecticut to Montana to find a man who can help their horse who has experienced a trauma. She falls in love with the Horse Whisperer and comes close to leaving her husband. I found myself turning in my seat, why because she was betraying her husband’s trust. If trust is to be real there must be bonding, touching, caring, etc. Trust is based in relationships. Trust is not impersonal. Those who want to bond and to have trust must have “hang time.”

TRUST HAS TO BE EARNED. Trust is not given, it is earned. I trust you because your life has shown me that I can.

The klipspringer is an African dwarf antelope that stands only two feet tall and weighs less than 30 pounds. Because of its size, it cannot defend itself against its predators. To survive, the sturdy mountain dweller must constantly be on alert.
It chooses a mate for life. They bond together and watch out for each other.
While one sleeps the other stands guard.

So it is, that in trust we bond with God. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. The rest comes from trust.

Why Do Some Believe And Others Not?

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It is not easy to become a Christian! The ninth chapter of John shares a story of a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam”. I saw with Vickie that when medicine doesn’t offer hope that you grasp for anything. You would be amazed at the number of odd things offered to cancer patients. And when you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to lose. So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked,”Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” In this story we get a view from two sides. From the man who is healed. And from the people who knew the man before and after. Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? The man replied, “He is a prophet.” The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Give glory to God, ” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

The listener faces two real choices: Do I take a purely scientific approach and come to the conclusion that the healing was in the mud or the pool? But we have tried everything. We call it proof. The second choice is a spiritual choice, just maybe God changed something. To open ourselves to the possibility that there is a God, means accepting the reality that God can change the course of life. We call it faith.

Ray Stevens sung a song called “Everything Is Beautiful.” The words of the song go, “there is no one so blind as he who will not see….” As Paul writes, …even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. Faith cannot be separated from being a Christian.

All of us struggle with accepting Jesus as Lord. For the Christian, we were able to make the leap of faith. We ask all the right questions. We looked into history and found the story confirmed by non-Christian sources. We looked into the story and found a love and acceptance that we needed and desired. And while proof was there, the step of faith could still not be eliminated. But why are those who look at the facts, understand the story, and still turn away? That is Paul’s struggle with the Jewish people who can’t seem to understand Jesus and accept Him. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. You see many of those who don’t accept Christ say it is because they are intelligent and must have proof. And Paul says their minds are dull. The Jews in the story of the man born blind saw the healing, there is the proof. But it wasn’t what they were looking for. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

We Christians are sometimes intolerant of unbelievers because of their doubt. Do we forget that doubt is also a part of the Christian struggle? Thomas, who lived with Jesus for three years, doubted. It is faith that pulls us away from doubt. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. In other words, where the ability to prove something ends, faith begins.

What is it that keeps someone from faith? Because of the way they see Christians living. Some Christians don’t live like Christians and it is a turn off for an unbeliever. They misunderstand or don’t know God’s word. Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:30-36) Sometimes the demands of being a Christian are too great. Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” If you want enter life, obey the commandments.” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:16-22) Because faith itself has a cost. ROM 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (NIV)

Who’s Packing Your Parachute?

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Charles Plumb tells the story about how after 75 combat mission over North Vietnam, his plane was destroyed. He ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He spent the next 6 years in a Communist prison. Years later Charles Plumb and his wife Cathy were sitting in a restaurant. A man about two tables away kept looking at him. Plumb didn’t recognize him. A few minutes into their meal he stood up and walked over to their table, looked down at him, pointed his finger and said, “You’re Plumb.” “You flew jet fighters in Vietnam. You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down. You parachuted into enemy hands and spent six years as a prisoner of war.” Plumb said, “How in the world did you know that?” He replied, “I packed your parachute.”

Plumb staggered to his feet and held out a grateful hand of thanks. “I guess it worked.” “Yes, sir, indeed it did,” Plumb said, “and I must tell you I’ve said a lot of prayers of thanks for your nimble fingers.” “Were all the panels there?” “Well, sir, I must shoot straight with you, of the 18 panels, that were supposed to be in that parachute, I had 15 good ones. Three were torn, but it wasn’t your fault, it was mine. I jumped out of that fighter at a high rate of speed, close to the ground.

Charles Plumb didn’t get much sleep that night. He kept thinking about that man.
He kept wondering what he might have looked like in a uniform. He wondered how many times He passed him on board the ship. He wondered how many times he might have seen him and not even said, “Good morning.” He could have cared less, until one day his parachute was needed.

When Charles Plumb parachuted into Vietnam, his parachute was well packed. Not just his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, his spiritual parachute were pretty well in place.

Who’s packing our parachutes? All of that parachute packing began for me back in New Castle, Kentucky, with my mom, my brothers and sisters. It was packed by a minister named Tom Newton, who was the Scout Master for my Boy Scout Troop. A man who would come by and pick me up and let me run around with him while he did his job. That not only helped me to see a Christian man but influenced me in the ministry. My parachute was packed by a mom, who cared more for me than she cared for herself. It was important to her that I finished high school. My sense of the importance of an education came from her.

When Vickie was ill and even when she died, there were many who had packed my parachute and many who were packing my parachute that helped me. Each time one of you brought food to the house during Vickie’s illness, it gave me support. It may have seemed like such a simple thing to you. For me, it said far more than just helping me out with the cooking.

What makes the difference between our success or our failure is ourselves. We can choose to succeed, we can choose to fail, or we can choose to give away our choice.
We make that choice!

However, there are many along the road of life who are trying to help us succeed.
When we grow old and look back on our lives, it won’t be the dollars that we will count, we count the parachutes that we have packed for someone else.

In our scripture text Jesus is delivering the Sermon on the Mount. In the sixth chapter He deals with “giving.” This passage is often used when talking about stewardship of our money. Especially when giving to good causes or to the needy.

However, I think that an important aspect of this passage is often overlooked. The needy may be everyone we live in the world with. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. Like in the story of Mr. Plumb, parachute packers are rarely seen by those who use them. People may not even be aware that we are doing them a benefit. A young man got his Eagle award and publicly thanked the person he thought had helped him with his project. The reality was that I was the one who had made things happen for the young man. Some would have been upset that they didn’t get the recognition that they desired. But it excited me that I had done something so wonderful and it was between God and me. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Jesus was a parachute packer for not only the twelve but all of the multitude. His words and His life are easily remembered. Those who work with young people, those who work with old are able to pack parachutes.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people become friends and stay a while. Leaving beautiful footprints on our hearts. They pack our parachutes and we may never need those parachutes until years later.

We are left with the chance of thanking those who have packed our parachutes in life, but also of knowing the importance of packing others parachutes. By the major way that we impact peoples lives, and my the small, quiet ways we affect others lives. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Parenting: The Search For Identity

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Parenting: The Search For Identity

A mother and her four-year-old daughter were in a hospital waiting room when a minister came in who was wearing a clergy collar. The little girl was fascinated with the collar, and kept staring at the pastor. He noticed it out of the corner of his eye, and went up to the little girl and asked, “Do you know what this collar means?” She looked up and said, “I sure do. It kills fleas for six months!”

As a parent, how do I help this child find his or her identity? Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain, King David writes. A house is built of wood and stone, a home is built of loving deeds and both will stand a thousand years. My biological father was never a father to me. There were never loving deeds to build my personhood, shape my character or simply to say, “I love you.” The man who adopted me, was a father and gave me what I needed and have never lost.

Identity is found in story telling! Children reared in a minister’s home are rarely different from children reared in other homes. While a student at Lexington Theological Seminary I had dinner one evening with one of my professors and his wife. They had reared three children and one even as an adult was giving them some concern. As a boy, the child had not wanted to go to church, even though his father was in the ministry. The mother wondering if she had done the right thing said, “You have to go to church.” “Why?” “Because you are a Pope.” I think she made the right decision, she did what she knew was in the best interest of her child. As we said last week, “ Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Children look to the past to find the present. Photo albums.
Family stories of oral tradition was important in the Bible.

Identity is found in family intimacy! Spending time together in work, play and rest.
Freely giving affection! Hugs, kisses, verbal reinforcement a teenager is visited in the psychiatric ward by her pastor. The family rarely attends church but still looks to this pastor as their pastor. What’s the problem? There is just no expression of love in the home. There probably is love–inconsistent though it may be. But even that inconsistent love is not shown to the children. The divorced father has never lived with his family and has rarely spent time with his children. The mother is in survival mode, but also has interests and desires that preclude her children. But the mother is concerned that her children are hanging around with the wrong crowd and are making some poor choices. So she yells at them, tells them not to do these things, and she leaves them alone to go live her own life. They are starving. They are starving for physical affection. These children melt when the pastor touches them or hugs them. The pastor would love to take them home and make them his children. But it is physically impossible to do this plus their mother would never give them up. So this pastor watches these sweet children as their possibilities slip away and their futures are exposed to the forces of evil. As soon as Jesus was baptized, at that moment heaven was opened, he saw the Spirit of God descending…and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” You see, I think that was as much for the benefit of Jesus as it was us.

Materialism is never where it is, relationships are important. Complaining and materialism were escalating around the house so Dad sat his children down for a talk. He said, “Kids, you don’t realize how good you have it. When I was a boy, I had to get up before daylight to deliver newspapers. I walked to school in the rain and snow, then worked at a grocery store after school. Even then, we didn’t always have enough to eat.” The three children’s silence made him feel as though the needed message had gotten through until his little four-year-old said, “Boy, Dad, I bet you’re glad you live with us now.”

Identity is found in family role models! All important things take time. A child’s personality, character and individuality are shaped in a life long process. (We want to assume how a child will turn out by halftime, and you can’t!) I have seen some children that at halftime didn’t look very promising, but who grew to be great people. Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Being a role model is important. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have flaws, we do. It does mean that we are honest and admit our mistakes. It even means learning to say, “I’m sorry.” Children learn to be people by the ones that rear them. Set high expectations. Live up to commitments.

Identity is found in family trust! I hear parents all the time saying, “I want to be fair with my child.” You can’t be fair with a child. Have you ever seen two children divide a cookie? They will divide that cookie down to the smallest crumb. What we want to do is discipline our children to develop trust. The Palmist say “…he grants sleep to those he loves.” Trust is not blind and trust always includes boundaries. When I go to sleep, I know that they will be in on time. I have the trust, but I am also a light sleeper. Trust means giving them room to grow up. When I first came to Wichita I drove a Honda. I had it out in the driveway checking it over. When I finished I asked Brooks if she wanted to drive it in the garage from the driveway. Jonathan got Short Stuff and hoped up in the passenger seat. She drove in fine, but forgot to put her foot on the brake. The car hit the back wall of the garage; Jonathan hit the windshield and broke the glass, Short Stuff was traumatized! All Vickie said was, “Don’t let her drive my car.” In an atmosphere of boundaries we have to let them explore, grow, and develop. Listen to each other’s feelings. But provide room for freedom of choice and decisions. You can’t make fear go away, but you can balance fear with trust.

In no area of our lives is the cross’s way of relating — forgiving one another, being kind to one another, and treating one another kindly — more needed than in the family.