Two Sides to Every Story

The other day Ricky came running in the house slamming his hand into his thigh angrily saying, “Rhea hit me in the leg. Rhea hit me in the leg!” He was reenacting the terribly violent action of his sister. It just occurred to me while writing this that if Ricky could hit his leg in the same spot Rhea hit him, his leg must not have been hurting very badly. Anyway, I said, “Wow! This sounds serious. Let me get Rhea to come in so I can ask her what happened.” Ricky quickly replied with, “Buuuuuuuut….I was kind of choking her. All I wanted was a piggy-back ride and she wouldn’t give me one.” Don’t you feel like choking people when they won’t give you a piggy-back ride?

It’s hard to trust kids…but I think it can be just as hard with adults at times. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard someone’s side of a story and thought to myself, “I can’t imagine it being any different than what this person just said” only to hear the other person’s side and find myself thinking, “Uhhh. Wow. Now I see where this person’s coming from too.” It’s Proverbs 18:17 The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.

One time when Katie and I were driving home we saw a young lady sitting on the curb only a few houses down from us. She looked really upset so Katie went to talk to her. She said she needed us to give her money so she could make it back to the other side of the country. Her sister kicked her out and if we didn’t help her she’d be homeless. By the time she finished explaining everything, I found myself thinking I couldn’t believe anyone could be that cruel. That’s about the time her niece yelled out the front door, “Mom says to quit being a baby and get back in the house.” Turns out she wasn’t kicked out at all; when she didn’t get what she wanted she tried to run away.

Probably the craziest thing is even when people have completely conflicting sides it doesn’t mean anyone is lying. Both people can be telling the truth…from their own perspectives. Jim says, “There are three sides to every story: one person’s side, the other person’s side, and the truth.” The most important thing is investing the time necessary to thoroughly listen, while making sure not to come co any conclusions until both sides are heard.

Sunday’s sermon, Luke 3:15-17 True Humility can be found here.

Recognizing the World's Toughest Job on Mother's Day

Okay, looking at a few different lists on the Internet (with no lists completely agreeing with each other) I came up with the top 10 toughest jobs in the world: 1. Coal Miner, 2. US President, 3. Alaskan Crab Fisherman, 4. Mercenary, 5. Freelancer, 6. Calcutta Sewer Cleaner, 7. UN Negotiator, 8. Logger (hats off to Gary!), 9. Prison Warden, 10. Mountain Rescuer.

All the lists I looked at really frustrated me, because none of them got it right as far as listing the toughest job in the world. Everyone knows the toughest job in the world is being a pastor. I’m kidding! It’s being a mother. Seriously. You’re working from the moment you wake up until the moment you lie down…and if you have infants (or sometimes even non-infants) you’re not off at night. There literally is no vacation. The most you can hope for is the occasional break of a few hours. You’re always trying to balance a number of activities and responsibilities. You’re always trying to make sure your kids are safe from harm (including harm you might feel like inflicting on them when you want to lose it). Kids pull on you all day, and if you asked my wife she’d say her husband pulls on her too. Rhea told me, “Daddy, you could never be a mommy. It’s so hard.” And she was right.

Let me share something interesting with you about the Book of Isaiah. It’s like a miniature Bible in that the first 39 chapters (like the 39 books of the OT) are filled with judgment. Then Isaiah takes a dramatic turn (like the turn between the OT and NT) and the last 27 chapters (like the 27 books of the NT) declare a message of hope and comfort, with a clearer focus on the Messiah. When God wants to reveal His love and compassion for His people in those chapters, it’s no wonder He chose to compare Himself to a mother:

  • Isa 49:15 Can a mother forget her child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would not forget you!
  • Isaiah 66:12-13 Her children will be fed, carried in her arms, and held in her lap. I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.

God has given us many wonderful blessings in our lives, and mothers are definitely one of the greatest. If you’re blessed enough to have your mother in your life still, thank her!

This past Sunday’s sermon, Luke 3:7-9 Fruit Worthy of Repentance – Part I, can be found here.

Frustration in Ministry

Frustration in ministryRhea recently got the training wheels off her bike. She loves to come over to my office and have me watch her ride around in the parking lot. When I was growing up we always looked for exciting places to ride like hills, valleys, puddles, etc. For a while the leadership has been discussing fixing the church parking lots, but I found a great benefit to its current condition: it provides great terrain for kids’ bike riding!

I was watching Rhea race around – because in her mind the faster she goes the more impressed I’ll be – and she wrecked and scraped her knee. The rest of the day she dramatically limped around and when she overheard us talking about Beach Camp over a month away she said, “I hope I’ll be okay by then.” To her it was a pretty serious accident! We told her the only way she’d be able to completely avoid getting hurt in the future would be to completely stop riding her bike.

My counsel to Rhea made me think the same could be said of ministry: the only way to make sure you never get hurt is to make sure you never serve. Sadly this is the approach some people have taken. Whenever you’re involved in ministry whether it’s VBS, camp, a Bible study, party, play, home fellowship, etc. there’s potential for frustration and hurt usually from…

  1. People letting you down: they don’t do what they say they’re going to do…or they don’t do what you ask them to do…or they don’t show up on time…or maybe they don’t show up at all…or they don’t pay on time…or they cancel last minute…or they do things their way instead of the way you want…and the list goes on…and on.
  2. People criticizing: they don’t like the time, place, music, length, schedule, activities, and if you’d done it the way they wanted others would be unhappy.

Here’s what we need to focus on to prevent frustration:

  1. For every person that lets you down or criticizes, there are a number of others serving and working hard to see the ministry go well, being blessed by your effort, appreciating what you’re doing, growing as a result of your service.
  2. Most importantly: Colossians 3:17 & 23 Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man. If we’re honest, when we’re frustrated it comes from having taken our focus off the Lord and putting it on the people around us. The reality is if our service is done for the Lord, His approval, and the blessing of serving Him, that should be enough to turn any amount of frustration into encouragement.

God's Personal Love For Us

I talked to the leadership about my FMLA and I was going to take the full three months off, but Katie says we probably really only need two :).

Since Rhea was born I’ve called her Princess. When your Father is the King, you’re a princess. Well the other day I was holding Charis on my lap and Rhea was in front of me and we were having a nice little conversation about how great it is for her to have a little sister, but things changed when I called Charis “Princess.” Rhea said, “What did you just call her?”

I said, “’Princess.’ She’s also my Princess.”

Rhea said, “Daddy, are you going to love me as much now that Charis is born?”

I said, “Of course Rhea. You’re still my Princess too. I could never love you any less…in fact, I love you so much I can’t even imagine loving you more than I already do. And if God gives us more children, I’ll still love you just as much.”

I think one of the reasons people question God’s love for them is they say, “With billions of people, how could God really love me that much?” In a way, I think they sort of feel like Rhea. If you have more than one child though, you know your love for your first child isn’t diminished in the slightest when you have another child. You can ask people who have multiple children and they’ll tell you they loved their first child just as much after having other children. In a really interesting way I can’t explain, I actually feel like I love Rhea more after having Ricky, Johnny and Charis.

Now while we have the capacity to love, the Bible says God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is one of His communicable attributes (a fancy word for His attributes that are communicated to or shared with us); however, even though we can love, that’s far different from actually being love. God created us for His glory and honor, but He also created us, because as a God of love He wanted objects to set His love upon. What really fascinates me is since I love, but God is love, His love is stronger and truer than mine; therefore, the love I have for Charis, as strong as it feels to me, is still much less than the love God has for her because it would be impossible for a person who loves, to love as much as a God who is love.