Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Great Explosion

Me and my old red-neck self were up late on Monday night watching the Daytona 500. After a full day and a half of waiting, it was now race time. I was excited and ready for a good race. Except for the second lap melee that collected several big time drivers, notably, Jimmy Johnson, Danica Patrick, and Trevor Bayne, it was an uncharacteristically quiet race.

That was not going to last. With 40 laps to go (that would be comparable to the last quarter in football), Juan Pablo Montoya slams into a "jet dryer" truck and trailer that was on the the track blowing debris off the course while there was a yellow flag. What happened next was unprecedented in the annals of NASCAR. The jet engine exploded, spilled 200 gallons of jet fuel on the track, and erupted in huge flames. By this time, the driver of the car and the driver of the truck had gotten out and were whisked away from the flames.

The Daytona Explosion
For a while, it looked as if the jet fuel would just have to burn out, but the well-trained and dedicated firemen used foam and water to beat back the flames and finally extinguish the ravaging inferno.

How could this happen? It seemed that everything was in the worst possible situation possible. The Montoya car veered out of of control because of a rear drive failure that caused the car to swerve out of control toward the third turn wall where a jet dryer truck happened to be loaded with fuel. What was never thought possible became reality. Only by God's superintending care was no one severely injured or killed as a result. I hope there are many race fans and drivers thanking their Lord that they were protected from what could have been a terrible disaster.

As I look at what happened on Monday night, I am forced to consider another explosion...this time, not a destructive one, but an explosion of care and concern.

This sheep is "bear bait"
You see Jesus cared for those who were around Him. The Bible tells us: "He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34). I'm sure as Jesus looked at the people of Israel, He was broken over what He saw: poverty, sure, economic poverty, but even more, spiritual poverty. He saw His people who were like sheep without a shepherd. Anyone that heard those words understood exactly what Jesus meant when there was no shepherd...they were "bear bait." If left to the elements and to themselves, sheep would wander through the treacherous hills and valleys until they died of exposure, starvation, poisoning, and became food for the scavengers if not the predators. Jesus knew this, so he started where he could: "He began to teach them many things." Of course, it was His wisdom and instruction that they needed. They had to hear and experience His words of life for it was in Him that they would find answers to life's most difficult questions.

How about you? Isn't it time there was an explosion in your life? Who is it around you that you could demonstrate the love of Christ in a practical way? Who could you demonstrate God's love and care for today? Who are you burdened for? The sex slave? The unloved child? The unwed mother? The hungry? The fearful? The hurting? There are so many who need our touch. That's why we must get involved wherever we can and begin where we can. Let's start by showing those we are nearest to an explosion of care. With God's help and by our actions, they can be introduced to a Savior who loves them and cares for them so much that He would rather die than live without them.

Exploding with care,

Pastor Trey Rhodes

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough...Just Quit. Really?

Here's one that goes against everything we've heard. According to a study published by psychologists Gregory Miller and Carsten Wrosch, when it comes to hard times, we had better just quit or it could affect our health.
In their most recent study, published in the September (2007) issue of Psychological Science, the psychologists followed teenagers for a full year. Over that time, individuals who did not persist obtaining hard to reach goals had much lower levels of a protein called CRP, an indicator of bodily inflammation. Inflammation has recently been linked to several serious diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, suggesting that healthy but overly tenacious teens may already be on the road toward chronic illness later in life. 
So, their answer was to just quit. I do wonder if they quit the first they couldn't get their funding for this study, or was it just handed to them on a silver platter. Maybe the trust fund families do have it right...make everything easy for your kids. Maybe then, they'll live longer. But I have to ask the question, what kind of life is that?

It was Martin Luther King, Jr who said, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." (For more quotes on "struggle"). So, I have to wonder if it is the struggle that makes our life worth living. Life should not simply be breathing. It should be much more. Life is about finding our purpose in life and moving on that purpose in order to become all we were intended to be.

Thank goodness, they found out more than only how to stay alive. They found out that people that didn't quit found out that life is much more from that same study:
While they did not find a direct link between re-engagement and physical health, they did find that people who readily jumped back into life had a greater sense of purpose and mastery and were less likely to ruminate about the past.
As we have been studying, examining, and agreeing to become more generous people, the first discovery we made was that to become who were intended to be, we were going to have to struggle to get our finances in order. Ouch! Yep, that's right, in order to be a generous person who can meet needs when they come up, we've got to get out of debt. Friend, that doesn't happen without a struggle for most of us. That's why we can't just give up. There will come tough times for all of us for all kinds of reasons. We've got to learn to push through in order to be all we were intended to be. To really be able fulfill the purpose we were intended accomplish, there will always be a struggle. It is probably a strong force of being able to live life to the fullest.

The Apostle Paul, of all people understood that when He encouraged Timothy during a tough time in his life:

All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we're in. 1 Tim 1:18-19 (MSG)

So, as we choose to obey God, there will come a time when you are “tested at the point of your obedience.” It is that moment when you find out what you really believe. It is then that you will have face a struggle. Will I push through and let God use me or will I just quit? For me, that moment happened earlier rather than later in life.

My wife, Kelly, and I had just arrived at seminary in Wake Forest, NC. We were doing what God wanted us to do. We were still in the wide-eyed, head in the clouds moment of our desire to do God's will. We had moved several hundred miles from home and had no way to return. After a week or so, my ministry position had still not come through; no one would hire me; and all our bills were coming due with no available means of money to pay them. It was at that very same moment that I cruelly blurted out to my wife, "We might as well go home. We can't make it financially here. I guess all my doubts were right. This was a dumb thing to do." Her answer? Although I don't remember the exact words, it went something like this, "Trey Rhodes. Did God call us here? If He didn't we should never have come in the first place. If He did, then He will provide." A little humbled I answered, "But honey, there is nothing...we have nothing to pay with. And I'm not just saying that..." I then walked out the door to get some fresh air to try and clear my mind. As I walked, I muttered half to myself and half knowing God could hear me, "Why did we come here anyway? No money...nothing. I guess I just brought my wife and kids up here for...nothing." As I passed the mailbox, which was about 1000 feet from our seminary duplex, I thought I'd see what other bills had come in. I opened the box...still muttering...and spied a letter with a return address from back home. Once again, I complained, "They're probably telling me all the reasons I shouldn't have come up here." Reluctantly, I opened the envelope and discovered not only a letter, but a blue checked piece of paper that looked like some kind of check. Surely, I was seeing things. I bent over and picked it up, brought it close enough to read, and saw an amount that was exactly what we needed to stay the least for now. Within the next week, a ministry position opened up at a local church. Soon I received my first paycheck, and 2 and a half years later, finished seminary. Tested, persevered, and with God's help passed the test.

Here's what I'm saying, many of you committed to the Lord to get your finances in order so that you could be those generous people God is calling us all to be. For that to happen, we must be faithful to God's call in our lives to obey matter the struggle we face. Never quit and never give up. God wants to do great things through you. Choose to be that funnel of God's blessing and impact this world like you have never imagined!

Never gonna' give up,

Pastor Trey Rhodes

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Make This Day a Day of Generosity

How many hours and energy have you put into making Valentine's Day special for your love? What if you could have a day where generosity makes a difference in a life outside of your family or friends? One company is determined to look outside themselves and touch lives. Here's their take on "Generosity Day":
(One) investment firm (The Acumen Fund) has redefined the process of giving back and today they're encouraging the world to do so on Valentines Day. They've dubbed the romantic day "Generosity Day" and are attempting to get people to give up on the expensive gifts and flowers. Instead, they are asking people to embrace the idea of giving back. The concept is to spend the day doing small acts of kindness in a pay-it-forward structure. Suggestions include leaving a larger than average tip, giving a colleague a ride to work, or just being extra nice to people. Little things that they hope will make a difference. Many had taken to sites like Twitter to share their support of the day. Happy #GenerosityDay! Join others who are doing outrageously generous thing," Kevin Kruse wrote on Twitter.
Generosity is what our Lord has always been about. We read in the Bible an incredible word form the lips of Jesus,
It is better to give than to receive. Acts 20:35
That seems so backwards while nearly everyone is looking out for number one. People wanting to know what they can get out of someone or something. Even to the point of asking, "What's in it for me?" It would seem that the more you give, the less you would have. But God's economy is completely different.

We are reminded in the Proverbs by Solomon:
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25
This is the principle, the more we give the more we prosper. It's not about what we have in the bag; it's what we can overflow from God's basket. If we give freely, we will "gain even more." That is basket living that makes generosity a way of life.

Will you hold on or will you choose to give freely? When it comes to Man vs. Money, may man win every time!

Cultivating a generous heart,

Pastor Trey Rhodes

Dinners are coming in March. Find out more here!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who Owns the Castle?

Castles have been etched in our minds as places where the king and his family live. We watch the movies and read the books and get all caught up in the romance of it all. But, the king doesn't actually live in his castle; he lives in the palace. The steward is actually the keeper of the castle and lives there to take care of the castle until the king returns (For you Lord of the Rings fans, that what The Return of the King is all about).

The Neuschwanstein Castle is one most visited castles in Germany
and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
The saying goes that a man's house is his castle. When you hear that, you might have visions of a burly man walking though his door to his doting wife who fawns over him as he plops in his chair and reaches for the cold ice tea that she places in his hand. Maybe it could be a scene from Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best. But, in order to understand fully what that means, we've got to go farther back than the 1950's. 

It actually all began in the time of Cicero about 100 years before Christ. He explained how important it was for a man to have security and privacy in his home; it was understood that the man represented the entire family who should expect the same. His exact quote was:
What more sacred, what more strongly guarded by every holy feeling, than a man's own home?
This was later taken to be a part of  law in western civilization as William Blackstone speaks to English law:
...the law of England has so particular and tender a regard to the immunity of a man's house, that it stiles it his castle, and will never suffer it to be violated with immunity.
Of course it didn't end there, our U.S. constitution gives us the same right in the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...
However, as followers of Christ, we are only the keepers of God's castle. We are not the owner. That is why we have but one right, and that is to yield all we have and all we are to our Lord, Jesus Christ, including our castle. He has the right to not only search us and all we have, but also seize whatever He needs. That's because He owns it all and it is His castle. So, the LORD Jesus should always have access to our stuff. He is the One for whom we are but stewards. He is the Owner, we are the managers. As the Psalmist declared:
The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. Psalms 24:1 (NASB)
As a young believer, I was confused with the purpose of the tithe. Somehow I thought that 10% was God's and 90% was mine. The truth is that the 10% is God's, and so is the 90%. It's all His. Everything I own, everything I am, and everything I ever will be are all His. The LORD not only owns the wealth in every mine, He also own the mine. He not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills, He owns every hill on every continent on this entire planet. God owns it all.

So, why do I tithe? Because God needs it? No, I think He could take it any time He wanted it if He really wanted to. Because the church needs it? No, that's not even right. The church needs our support in so many ways; our finances are only a part. Our church needs our talents, our gifts, our time, our support, and our help. So, what is the tithe for? It is our way of letting the Lord know that we acknowledge it all belongs to Him. It is not our holy duty; it is our gift of love for Him.

Thank you for demonstrating your love for your Lord.

All for Him,

Pastor Trey Rhodes
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