Featured

Looks Can Be Deceiving

“She looks just like you!”

I said that to someone I had recently started working with, about her daughter. Then she told me their daughter was adopted.

An Adoption

My sister was adopted. It was public and well known. Most adoptions are not that way, but this was different.

  1. They adopted when I was 10, my brothers were 13 and 12.
  2. When you show up for church one Sunday with a baby, it gets noticed.
  3. Everyone knew my parents didn’t have a baby girl.
  4. And she didn’t resemble either parent.
  5. She was from Viet Nam.  

The Resemblance

No, she obviously didn’t favor either parent. But when she learned to talk, she talked like us. Her mannerisms reflected those of our family. She ate what we ate, did what we did, and went where we went. She was ours and we were hers. We belonged to each another. We were the same, we were family.

How That Happened?

Here are some things that made her one of us:

  1. She had our name.
  2. She had our values.
  3. She was believed as we believed. 
  4. She was loved equally and in the same way as her brothers.
  5. She was a Fyffe, through and through.

A Spiritual Adoption 

Paul wrote in Ephesians that God adopted us into his family, 1:5. That we are the Father’s workmanship, the result of his divine will, 2:10. That we were given his name, 3:14. And that we grow to become like him, 5:1-2.

We were created in the image of God, but that wasn’t about appearance. My sister didn’t look like my parents, but they were her parents, she was our sister, and we were one.

Our spiritual identity comes from God. We wear his name, reflect his values, and share his purpose. We became one with him.

  1. Identity
  2. Name
  3. Character
  4. Purpose
  5. Family

It all came from him, it all points to him.

To Close

We look different, but we were adopted and fitted into God’s family. It’s not about who you look like, but who you belong to.

I said to my friend, “She looks just like you!” Spiritually, we all look like the Father.  

familyworship-750x500

Shalom

It’s Not Really About The Carpet

It will take over 2,000 squares.

Of What?

Of carpet. We’ve had a bare floor in our Worship Center since the flood.

Here’s The Thing

The new carpet wasn’t delivered in giant rolls, but in boxes of carpet squares, each one measuring 2 feet by 2 feet. If my math is right, and that’s unlikely, it will take 2,250 squares to cover the 9,000 square ft floor. Is that right? Did I get it wrong?

Either way, its buckets of squares. 

carpet squares
Not our floor, or our carpet squares, but close, really very close.

Why Squares?

Well, it’s become common to install carpet squares in large applications. Some advantages:

  1. If one gets stained, pull it up, clean it, and put it back. 
  2. If one gets damaged, pull it up and put another one in its place. 
  3. If a big area gets damaged, like in a flood, replace it with new squares.

Some Thoughts

  1. No, the seams aren’t obvious. 
  2. No, it isn’t cheap carpet.
  3. No, it didn’t take weeks, just a few days to install.

It’s true, good things come in small packages. 

Now Jesus

Two lessons about the mustard seed:

1. “Is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:19

2. “He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.'” Luke 17:6

Those were metaphorical, right? Faith can’t be measured by its mass, volume, or weight. Its hyperbole: exaggeration for effect. God doesn’t care about our replanting trees and birds will perch on the branches, but not all the birds. 

His poignant illustrations taught this idea: Don’t say you can’t do something, or that you won’t try, because your faith is too small or weak.

Even the smallest faith can move mountains!

For Us

Sometimes I ask God to increase my faith because his teaching is hard and I don’t want to obey. So, I make it his problem. I put my lack of obedience on his shoulders.

“Increase my faith Lord, make it easier for me, and I’ll gladly do it.

To Close

Great faith isn’t delivered in giant rolls. It comes in small pieces, one piece at a time. So, keep obeying, keep doing what is right, and watch your faith grow.

Eventually, you’ll have a full floor of faith, a great foundation for your life.

Shalom

 

Jesus Struggling, Really?

He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

Who Was?

  1. Lincoln: he lost children, was hated, shot at, and assassinated.
  2. Luther: was excommunicated and pronounced an outlaw.
  3. Copernicus: rejected as a heretic for his heliocentric solar system.
  4. Paul: scourged, jailed, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked.

All true, but no, it wasn’t one of them. Some other clues:

He was…

Like one from whom men hide their faces.

Stricken and afflicted by God.

Crushed for our iniquities.

Oppressed, judged, and cut off.

Poured out and pierced.

It was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

And The Cross?

Yes, Jesus died on the cross. However, he wasn’t the only one to experience crucifixion. Hundreds of thousands died on Roman crosses. Some for their crimes, for their race, or for their beliefs. Many were crucified as entertainment for wicked Emperors.  

The Bible

No, it wasn’t the thorns, spikes, or spear that gave the cruelest pain, it was other things:

taking the sins of the world

accepting our guilt and punishment

scorning the shame of the cross

being forsaken by his Father

Now Hebrews 5:7-8

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

Jesus suffered and wept. He wept for others and he wept for himself. He prayed with loud cries and petitions. One time he prayed so intensely, that on a cold night, his sweat fell like drops of blood. Notice, he was heard but the answer was still no. 

There are some things in life we just have to go through.

To Close

Are you hurting? Are you struggling? Are you feeling abandoned, oppressed, and discouraged? Then guess what? Jesus understands. He experienced all those and more, just as we have. He probably suffered more, and more deeply, and more intensely. 

But he knows. He lived them. 

Shalom

A Good Question

“With people needing help, why are we collecting funds for paint?”

A Fair Question

This morning, our church is taking up a special collection, not for crisis relief, but to help get our church building repaired. We suffered over a million dollars of damage and loss, and this morning are asking for $140,000 to help put everything back together.

Some have asked:

“Why are we collecting money for paint and carpet with so many still in need?”

The answer: Our flood insurance, as well as emergency funds, will cover all but $140,000 of the needs, hence the contribution.

Those Funds Will Go To:

  1. Repairs for roof damages.
  2. Regrading the property for better drainage and water control.
  3. Repairing all exterior and interior walls damaged by the flood.
  4. Insulation, electrical, and other needs.
  5. Cribs, changing tables, and supplies for the nursery.
  6. Cabinets, tables/chairs, and supplies for Children’s Wing.
  7. Cabinets and needed supplies for The Vine Preschool.
  8. Cabinets, tables/chairs for adult classrooms.
  9. Desks, chairs, bookshelves, and furnishings for Admin Wing.
  10. Flooring: carpet, tile, and the gym floor.

Some ask,

“Is all that is necessary? Couldn’t some be redirected to crisis relief?”

The answer comes from the needs and requests of our members:

  1. “When will the gym be finished so we can resume children’s/adult activities?”
  2. “When will the nursery be open, it’s been three months without one?”
  3. “How soon can we resume feeding the homeless?”
  4. “When can we start housing the homeless families that stay in our building?
  5. “When will children’s bible school begin, my kids miss it?”
  6. “When can the lady’s bible class start up again?”
  7. “How long until we can have baby showers and wedding showers?”
  8. “When will the Youth Ministry rooms be fixed and ready?”
  9. “When can we begin our Wednesday night small group ministry?”

And more questions like those. Everyone is past ready to get back to normal. With over 1100 members, there are many ministries, programs, services, groups, classes, fellowships, and events anxiously waiting to start up again.

That’s what the $140,000 will be used to do.

Crisis Relief?

The Southeast church has helped, or is helping, 92 families with small repairs or whole house renovation. About two-thirds are SE members, the balance are people in the community.    

When finished, the SE church will have spent more than $350,000 on crisis relief.

Some suggest we not repair the building but use the money to assist others. Some suggest we use the funds for crisis relief to get the building ready faster. Everyone has an opinion.

SoutheastSM

To Close

 

“No one can do everything for anyone, but everyone can do something for someone.”

Keep helping, stay serving, do what you can.

Our building will get finished then we will recommit ourselves to our ministries that help those in need. As much as we can, as soon as we can.

Shalom

A Self-Indulgent Coffee

I don’t’ complain, I’m not a complainer.

Here’s My Complaint

Yesterday morning I awakened to cooler temperatures. It was wonderful. Okay, that’s not the complaint.

I headed to the office and decided to listen to Christmas music. I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving. I didn’t care. It was a lovely fall morning and I was in a Christmas mood. 

I thought, “Hey it’s the holidays, what I need is a nice Holiday Coffee.” So, I stopped at a well-known coffee house, used their drive thru, and ordered a medium sized Holiday Spiced Latte. Yep. Then drove up to the window to pay for it. Now here is the complaint.

With tax, it was $5.32

When she told me, I nearly wigged out. I felt the pull to keep on driving. But I didn’t, I kept my place at the window, dug out five dollars and change, and paid for it.

Starbucks_Drive_Thru_012408_fs
Not my car or where I stopped, but close, really very close.

Was It Good?

It was extraordinarily good. It was spiced, and foamy, and smooth and rich. And it came in a festive holiday cup! The cup made it special.

It was my first $5.00 coffee. Then I wondered if they sold coffee drinks costing even more than $5.00? Yes? The more expensive ones probably come in an even nicer cup, with elves or something.

Now Jesus-Luke 21:2-4

“He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” 

I didn’t feel guilty for spending $5.00 on a coffee, but it was a little unnecessary, perhaps a bit wasteful. But I still bought it and I really enjoyed it!

To Close

No doubt, Jesus is still watching and noticing the givers. What does he see when he sees me giving? Anyway, I bet that poor widow was holding a spiced latte when she gave her two small copper coins. Maybe? 

 $5.00 for coffee is outrageous, self indulgent, and terrible, but it’s really good!

O well, Happy Holidays to all my rich friends!

 

It Was A Wake-Up Call!

“Stop! In the Name of Love”

What Is That?

It’s a lyric, and title, from a song the Supremes released on February 8, 1965. It quickly reached the top, going #1 on the Billboard Pop Singles, nearly 52 years ago.

Here’s Why It Matters

Yesterday, while driving home, I ran a red light.

The road I use has a crosswalk that isn’t at an intersection, it’s in-between intersections, in the middle of a long block, with a blinking yellow light.

When someone wants to cross, they push the button and the light blinks red, and then it turns red. The cars stop, the people cross, and it goes back to blinking yellow.

I didn’t notice the light had changed from yellow to red. By the time I saw the cars  stopped in the other lanes, it was too late to even brake, with no one in front of me, I drove right through it. As I did, I noticed someone with a bike was getting ready to cross. It was a young girl.

And Then?

I was scared, rattled, and sick to my stomach. I could have severely injured her, or worse. All I could think about was how close I came to destroying her life. I thought about her family. I was shaking when I pulled into my driveway. I’m shaking now. 

Now Jesus, Matthew 5:14-15

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone.”

Those verses have much meaning and application. But included must be the reminder of our responsibility to God, to our families, and to our community. Our world!

Just So You Know, I wasn’t…

  1. Playing with my phone.
  2. Talking on my phone.
  3. Distracted by music in the car.

But I was distracted. I was deep in thought, concerned about something, and was going over it in my head. Frankly, I wasn’t paying attention, was driving on autopilot. And a little girl very nearly paid for it.

kids in crosswalk

To Close

It’s a sharp reminder, a call to stop deluding myself. I tend to act like whatever is going on with me is more important than anything, or anyone. For the well-being of others and for the light of Christ to better shine, I need to listen to the call. And what’s the call?

Stop! In the Name of Love

“I’m An Easy Mark”

I bought six.

Six What?

Little boxes of chocolates. One of my young friends at church was selling them for a school fund raiser. Something about some volleyball nets. 

candy-bars
Not what I bought, but close, really very close.

An Easy Mark

We used to buy from every child that was selling something. But we couldn’t sustain it. At our lowest point, we had to make a tearful appeal to our Church Benevolence Ministry just to eat. (Okay, that’s not true, but its close!)

fund raiser
 I understand philanthropic fundraising campaigns.

Why So Many?

I had $12.00 and they were $2.00 each, so I bought six. Her mother told me,

“You didn’t have to buy so many.”

And I said,

“I didn’t have to buy any, I just wanted to support my friend.”

My health and well-being didn’t need the candy, it wasn’t about the candy.

Risky?

Sure it is. Some of you are members of my church and now you’ll go tell your little fund-raising kids:

“Go see Mr. Rick, he’ll buy anything.”

Sadly, I can’t. The Benevolence Committee has me on a program. Sorry kids.

Now Jesus: Mark 10:13-16

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. 

Why Her?

  • I’ve known her since she was a toddler.
  • She used to sit with us in church.
  • Each Sunday, she still finds me and hugs me.
  • We like talking about school and stuff.
  • I love her. I love her family.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not close to every kid in church, but I wish. We have 150 kids in our Children’s Ministry and 100 teens in our Youth Ministry. It’s likely most of them have little interest in knowing me! 

To Close

Sunday morning, we had a Baby Blessing for a sweet couple with a sweet baby girl, their first child. I encouraged them a little, challenged them a little, and gushed over their baby, a little. Then we prayed for them and blessed them. It was beautiful.

Maybe in a few years I’ll be buying chocolate from her? You never know!

Have a blessed day.

We Need It Back!

Chairs and blankets, cardboard boxes, and scrap lumber.

Huh?

When I was a kid, I made tents, forts, and tree houses.

  1. Tents: dining room chairs with blankets.
  2. Forts: cardboard boxes connected like hamster tubes.
  3. Tree houses: low branches and scrap lumber.
cardboard box maze
I Could play in a cardboard fort all day. 

In Common?

  1. Each was something I could make.
  2. They were fun and offered fellowship with friends.
  3. They were temporary.

Mom wanted the chairs back at the table, and the boxes slowly disintegrated, and the old lumber always fell apart.

tent of blankets bad-tree-house

August 30

That was the first day we got into our church building after Tropical Storm Harvey. Everything was saturated, mold was growing, the carpet was foul, the furnishings damp, the walls damaged, and just about everything was ruined.

November 5

Today is 65 days later. The Worship Center has been remodeled. The interior walls have been repaired. The exterior walls have been fixed and sealed.

Getting the classrooms fitted and furnished will take the rest of this year. Our facilities and their functions will be restored and ready by January. 

Now Jesus, Matthew 16:18

“…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The church isn’t a building, its people, the sacred community of Christ. But our sacred community gathers in a building for:

  • Worship
  • Teaching
  • The Vine preschool
  • Bible classes
  • Housing the homeless
  • Feeding the hungry
  • Women’s Ministry
  • Small groups
  • Support groups
  • Seniors ministry
  • Children’s ministry
  • Youth ministry
  • Children’s musical
  • Christmas Eve
  • Easter Services
  • Men’s basketball
  • Fall Festival
  • And on and on…

We shouldn’t marvel at our structures or glory in our buildings, for they aren’t the church that Jesus built. However, the building is a tool and tools are used to build things.

We use ours to build the body of Christ, to advance the Kingdom of God. It’s a vital tool. Yes, the building is temporary and Harvey showed us just how temporary it can be. But praise God, the church is indestructible!

To Close

Our damaged building is more than a tent of blankets, or a fort of boxes, or a tree house of splintered boards. But as it was in my childhood, the building offers its own kind of “Fun and Fellowship.”

And we need it back!

 

A Moment Out of Time

It’s an appointment we will all keep.

Busy Schedule?

I take pride in keeping appointments. Typically, I’m early and the first to arrive.

I missed a lunch appointment this week because I got preoccupied and lost track of time. I felt bad about it, again, it’s a pride thing.

Two Kinds of People

Those who are on time and those who aren’t. It’s the prompt verses the tardy. If you are fanatically prompt, then it’s those who are courteous and those who aren’t.

If you are the latter, then you find the former to be uptight, overwrought, and irritating. If you are the former, then you find the latter to be selfish, undisciplined, and irritating.

Appointments need to be kept, honored, and respected.

Now Jesus: Matthew 23:42

 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Will that be the hardest appointment to keep? Jesus was speaking eschatologically, a big word about the end of time.

It’s a tough appointment because you can’t put it on a calendar, or set a reminder on your phone, or a post-it-note to keep you aware. It’s an appointment we will all keep, we just don’t know when.

Statue-of-Jesus-the-redeemer

Today

This afternoon is a milestone for me, albeit a sad one. Today I officiate my 50th funeral as Senior Minister for the Southeast Church of Christ. 

The person we’ll gather to honor was ready. He didn’t know the day or hour he would pass, but he knew it was coming, and he died talking to Jesus.

To Close

I’m sad that he is gone, but I have peace knowing that he is at peace. He was a good friend, a respected member of my church, and an honorable man. He was an excellent husband, father, and grandfather. I miss him.

He died unafraid. He knew he had an appointment with eternity and it was an appointment he was not going to miss.

It’s an appointment we will all keep.

It Was A Night of Nights!

…and then there was one.

Last Night

Like many, I watched the full nine innings of game seven. I am a Houston fan, I live in Houston, and it was our night to shine. 

Houston needed a win. After the last nine weeks, it was a gift. The Astros would have won with or without Tropical Storm Harvey, but since we had to live with it, a World Series Championship is extra sweet.

astros celebration

Just A Thought

Houston scored all five runs early in the game. Then the Dodgers pulled the pitcher and put in some guys who kept Houston from scoring another run, not even one.

Houston’s starting pitcher did well, but after hitting four batters, he was pulled for a series of relievers. Somewhere in there, the Dodgers scored their single run.

If Los Angeles had started a different pitcher, its possible they may have won the game 1-0. But they didn’t start a different pitcher, and they didn’t win the Series. And if they had started someone else, its possible Houston would have scored even more runs.

The Point

I’m not sure I have one. But I’ll offer a few random life thoughts:

  1. Game 7 was the finish line, it started with game 1, which the Astros lost.
  2. A few years ago, Houston was losing a 100 games a season, they got better.
  3. Succeed when you can, waiting to get runs may be too late.
  4. The Astros weren’t better athletes, they just played better ball.

To Close

It was an exciting series, a fantastic game seven, and a sweet celebration. It brought tears to my eyes to see their happiness and to share in their moment of immense achievement. 

But I’ll leave you with this. Winning doesn’t always look like winning. The cross of Jesus didn’t. It looked like total defeat. It wasn’t. It was overwhelming victory.

…and then there was one.

Shalom

Halloween: Light of the World?

About Fall Festival

What Churches Are Doing

A quick Google reveals that many churches offer an annual Fall Festival. They offer it as an alternative to Halloween. The message?

“Come out of the darkness and into the light.”

Halloween Concerns?

  • Some say Halloween supports the worship of evil.
  • Others suggest it’s unsafe to eat the treats given by strangers.
  • Many fear the strangers.
  • Are these valid concerns? Just read your newspaper the day after.

Have we exchanged our fear of witches, goblins, and zombies for our fear of kidnappers, malevolent candy givers, and unsafe neighborhoods?

Our church’s Fall Festival doesn’t replace Halloween, it’s on a different night. Some believe that the light of the world still needs to be out there and not be hidden under the bowl of a church fun night.

Still, our Fall Festival has hundreds of community guests. And this year, we offered more than treats. We set up a “store” with all kinds of supplies like food items, bedding, cleaning supplies, school supplies, clothes, and much more, available for anyone, for free. Many visitors left with bags of needed items.

Me?

I love Fall Festival. We have bouncy houses, cotton candy and popcorn, and a great meal. There’s a petting zoo, an arcade with decent video games, and super-heroes walking around being super. It encourages fun costumes and discourages the imitation of evil. Families young and old interact and have great fun.

rick and chicken
Not my pet, but close, really very close. I think it was a chicken? 

I’m grateful for my church staff who envision such events and produce a fantastic experience. Our Children’ Ministers, Youth Minister, and Media Director deserve a lot of gratitude.

My Favorite Part?

It was a family whose house had been flooded and destroyed by Harvey. They aren’t members of my church. I met them and then helped carry bags of needed items to their car.

Yes, their children left with bags of candy! They all left with bags of something.

I guess there are many ways to be the light of the world.

Shalom