Friday, April 27, 2007

Jim Minich

When someone "young" dies, it is hard to understand why. Jim Minich falls into that category. Jim was a man from our church who was young. Healthy by most standards, he was a man with an endless amount of energy. He had a strength in his life that was unmatched by most. Even though he had what some might call "handicaps" (i.e. no hand on one arm), he was someone that accomplished many feats that people with two hands could not do. Waterskiing was one of them, wakeboarding and the like. I have seen pictures of him doing flips and turns on the water that amazed me.

He loved sports. He really enjoyed volleyball, and the occassional spike in the preacher's wife's face. (Inside story there). He played on my church league basketball team. He wasn't very good, but he would get out there, play defense, rebound, and shoot from far beyond the 3 point line. ( The backboard took some viscious hits over the yearts) He would not make many of those shots, but he was out there... and it was an inspiration to us. He didn't think he was very good at it, but he kept coming back, and we were glad.

For some reason, its anybody's guess.... he contracted a form of luekemia. Within about 3 weeks, he had suffered several complications. He spent the last 8 weeks fighting in ICU. Eventually his body wore out. And last night he went to be with the Lord.

Jim was a fighter... a fighter in life, and certainly a fighter in death. He endured more than most people would have ever endured over the past 8 weeks. And he kept fighting. He was making ever so slow progress... but yesterday his body gave out.

Many people will question why. Many people will not understand. But for what its worth, from somoene who knew Jim and his family, I think what happened yesterday was a demonstration of God showing His MERCY to Jim and his family. Jim and I had talked about what would happen if this luekemia took him. He so secure in his faith. He had no doubts. His concern was for his wife and daughter. But he knew that if he did not make it, he would be with Jesus.

Some people make think that this was not merciful. But all you had to do is to spend a little time in the ICU unit to know that if he was not going to get completely better, God's mercy would be shown in him taking him to the other side.

I have clinged to a verse in Romans 8:18 for several weeks. I am not always sure why single verses have an impact on me like the do ( especially at certain times.) But this one has... "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

I keep reminding myself that the "best is yet to come." This is not all there is. Heaven awaits anyone who has trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jim had, and in an instant, he was in the presence of Christ.

It makes it hard for those left behind. But there is a promise wrapped up in Romans 8 that carries us through those times. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." ( Romans 8:28)

I believe that God will show his mercy to Cindy and Emily and to the rest of his family in the coming days. And somehow, even when we can't physically touch it, we will see his mercy played out in their lives.

Jesus said, "I am the ressurection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whover lieves and believes in me will never die." ( John 11:25)

Monday, April 23, 2007

God's work in me

SOLD.... Nice words when you are trying to SELL. For the past 9 years, our church has been on a journey. At first, it did not have a name. We ( Elders and Staff) at the time sensed that it was time to look beyond the 7.2 acres on 86th street. We commissioned a team and went looking for land.

The land found us. The Bailey Foundation wanted to put a church out west of town, next to a hospital that they had dreamed up. in 1997 or 1998, that seemed pretty far fetched. But even more far fetched was the idea that the Bailey Foundation wanted to give the land to us. Yes I said, GIVE... 22 acres. God was working.

We accepted. So, we had land...but no real plan. Lots of people wanted to know, "What's next?" We prayed, we prayed and we prayed. Our church went through some transition in leadership. And we prayed more. By 2004, we were ready to "re-locate." But we had no building, no real build-up in money and no specific plan. But God was working...

We launched out on a capital campaign. It was called "Building For Christ." We dreamed and prayed. We asked God to show us. We waited... soon the commitments came in. The final total was a little over 2 million dollars. We were not sure what that would mean in terms of building.
We knew that if we were going to be able to "re-locate", it would take a lot more than 2 million dollars. God was working...

So we put our building on the market. We said "We have a price... and if it is meant by God to be sold, it will sell." It did not sell...but God was working.

3 years later, (March of 2007), the Capital Campaign ended ( sort of). Final ( kind of) totals for the campaign were around $1, 450,00. We were short...but no one doubted that God was working.

Well I guess some doubted... Some left. Some became "standoffish". Some said, "I will beleive God is in it, when I see it."

But God was still working.

Then at the end of the campaign, something interesting happened. The Rejoice Church and Christian School approached us about leasing space for thier school. That conversation moved from lease to purchase. We put a team together and talked... Many prayed. Was this the time?

God was working. He sold the facility in a way that allows us the time to build phase two. He sold the building that allows this land to be used for God-honoring uses in the future ( Chrsitian School). He sold it in a way that demonstrated to the church that God was in this.

God is working. Now, here is the deal. Even if the building had not sold, I still believe God is working. You see, I have learned that God is working when he says "yes, go forward." He is working when he says, "No, don't go there." And he is working when he says, "wait for the right time."

Its not about buildings and land. It is about God. That has been demonstrated in how He has worked in my life. Some days its "yes". Some days its "no." Most days it's "Take one more step and I will tell you where to go from there..."

Hard lessons to learn. I have some pretty important prayers going to God right now. And none of them have anything to do with the building. But I have learned through the building process alot about how to "be led " by God. It's step by step. I am hopeful for some "yes" answers. But if they are "no" or "wait" or " take the next step and the next step only" , I am good with that.

I know He is still working....

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Faith in Christ...Our only hope


Our country suffers grief. The shooting at Virginia Tech grips our nation today. There are questions. Who? Why? How can this happen?

Our media is immediately on top of the authorities. Their questions, in an attempt to fill coverage and time focuses on the decision making of the President and Police.

Maybe it is just me, but the logistics of "locking down" a campus with 9,ooo residents and 14,000 commuters would be impossible. But beyond that, it is incomprehensible to me that in the effort to get the story, this would be the focus.

We live in a evil and fallen world. Not everyone is this evil. Not everyone acts out on what fantasies they harbor. Not everyone snaps. But there are some out there who simply do what their minds and hearts tell them to do, with no check or balance. And in the middle of it all are innocent people who get hurt. 32students and teachers are killed. Countless friends and family members are affected forever.

God designed and created a different kind of world. It was a world where man and God would spend eternity together. However, Satan had his way. And the world changed.

This is the world we live in. It is the world that mankind has lived in since the garden.

When Jesus came, things changed again. The plan to redeem mankind reached its pinnacle when Christ rose from the dead. We (believers) are charged to get the message out again. Things are changing... Jesus will return and He will be in total control. We have a second chance.

Then the mess here on earth will be resolved. Until then, mankind will continue to make terrible and destrctive decisions and innocent people will get hurt.

The answer: faith in Christ. He conquered death once and for all. He is our only hope.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A long day called "Saturday."

Mike Cope, minister at Highland Church of Christ in Abiliene Texas quotes Ann Lamont in a recent blog post.

"I don't have the personality for Good Friday, for the ressurection. I'd like to skip ahead to the ressurection." (Plan B.)

I am the same way. Good Friday is distasteful, uncomfortable, inhumane, angry, ugly and painful. AND NECCESARY. I preached about this last Sunday, saying, "If Jesus does not go to the Cross, he is NOT the Son of God. " The bottom line is that there is no Easter morning, no "sunrise service" at the tomb, no celebration of Pentecost 50 days later, and no Christianity, without the Cross.

Ours is a culture that loves to fast forward past the "bad" parts of a story to get to the climax. (Isn't one of the points of DVR's?). But you cannot DVR this story. The best thing to do is to wade into the deep waters of the pain and agony of "It is finished." ( John 19:30). Realize that what Jesus finished on the cross was real. The redemptive plan of God was it for you and me. If He does not finish, we are in deep trouble spiritually. We are left to make sense of sin and wrath, sorrow and separation from God on our own. I am not able to do that. I needed the help, the plan, and the stamina of Jesus who went all the way.

Today I was thinking about Saturday some 2000 years ago. What a dark day it must have been for those who had poured everything into Jesus. What a difficult time it must have been for those who had "left everything" to follow Jesus. Now the one they followed was in a tomb, and they were left to contemplate their future. What would they do now? What would their families and friends say? How would the escape the persecution that was certainly to follow? They did not live in the shadows over the previous three years. They were "out there, front and center. They had been in the "thick of things" for over three plus years. Now what do they do? How would they live their lives now?

What a powerful statement of love from God. For in a short few hours, they found out that what Jesus said was true... "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again." HE DID!

Tomorrow, we celebrate! But we should not forget that there were about 72 hours where nothing was celebrated by the followers of Jesus. All they could do is pray and stick together.

I am thankful for the "next day..." I am looking forward to it... big time1

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

New Hope

Some would say that "they" live in a nearly perfect world. The Amish live a very simple life, in a very complex day. Their families seem strong. They have a strong faith in God. They are depenedent on very few for very little.

So six months ago, someone from the outside intruded upon their lives and destroyed some of that innocence and simplicity. When the deranged man entered that school house in Nickel Mines Pa. everything changed. Now this secluded community would be listed among Columbine, Joneshboro, Springfield and Ft. Gibson. Places where school children had been gunned down by fellow students or assailants.

What made this even more difficult was the fact that "they" had to let the rest of the world in. From helicopters to satellite trucks, news organizations swooped in. They wanted to respect their privacy and their beliefs, but the story had to be told.

I am glad the story was told. Why? Because it is a story of hope. When faced with the worst of all tragedies, the Amish found hope in thier faith and in each other. When asked what they would do about their grief and pain, they often said that they would trust God, forgive the man, and reach out to his family. They would find strength in God. They would find purpose through this pain.

Those were not just words. They did reach out to the man's wife and kids. The Amish people called on them, surrounded them and cared for them. They knew there was another family who had experienced a terrible tragedy in their lives. They raised money for that family, establishing a fund for them.

Why? Well, when asked, it is almost as if their answer was, "well, why not?" They knew the scriptures commanded them to forgive. They knew that Jesus had said this often. They knew retaliation and hate was not the answer. For those who believe in God, love is the order of the day.

The ressurection of Jesus Christ does something to us that nothing else can do. It gives us real hope in the face of darkness and sorrow. Knowing that there is someone ( Jesus) who could go to the cross and say, "Forgive them", and then rise from the dead is enough to pay attention and obey His commands, no matter what we "feel" like.

Hope... It comes in all kinds of packages. It comes in so many different forms. It does not guarentee protection against sorrow and tradgedy. It does help us see beyond it all to something that is better. It helps us see people as Jesus sees them.

The kids in Nickel Mines went to school yesterday in their new school building. It still has no electricity. It is a one room school house. There are new things this time, ( skylights for one).
There are secure doors and paved parking lots.

And there is hope. By the way, they named the school. It is an appropriate name for sure. "New Hope School."

We should all be so blessed as to spend time in that school.... the school of New Hope.

Monday, April 02, 2007

1 year ago tomorrow...

One year ago tomorrow ( April 3rd) I had a stroke. Tonight, I will get to watch the NCAA Championship game from my living room, which was what I was planning to do last year. But I ended up at St. Francis and as they say, "the rest is history."

It is has been a very interesting year. I am glad to turn to page on the last year and look forward to a new one. My life has changed in many ways. Physically I am not the same. I have lost about 25% of my pre-stroke weight. I still have some goals to accomplish on this front, but I am on my way. I am in pretty good shape, inspite of the setback of a month ago. Some say this is the "kinder, gentler" Charlie. I guess that could be true.

My heart has changed as well. I feel things as deeply as I ever have. (Which can get me into trouble.) Certainly my faith and trust in God has deepened in some significant ways. I realized that what I preached about "digging your wells deep" was true, and that through the years I had developed a fairly deep well of faith that carried me through. I am back to digging.

I am still tired, but not as tired as I was 6 months ago. Dr. Edwards said, "2-3 years to recover." I didn't believe her when she said that. I do now. It is a journey with lots of ups and downs, curves and straightaways and certainly a few potholes along the way.

I just want to say thank you to so many.

To God, who gives me breath for today and hope for my future.

To Pam, who continues to stand beside me, sometimes reminding me of things I have forgotten, helping me say "no" to the things I need to say "no" to and "yes" to the things I need to say "yes" to. She loves me. That is all I have to say about that! We celebrate 26 years on Thursday. I am glad she hung around for the last one...although there was never any doubt that she would.

To my kids, who have been so supportive of both Pam and I. I know that they have been scared off and on, but they really never let me see it. They all ask lots of questions, watch me like a hawk when they are around and really try to pick up Pam when it seems like to much.

To my parents, who have had the added burdened of a son that didn;t feel so well... They prayed and prayed, as so many did. And it worked.

To First Christian Church. They understand my shortcomings, are patient with me and genuinely concerned. They also ( with God's direction and blessing) advanced the kingdom this last year, just proving none of us are indispensable.

To the Elders of First Christian Church. They have shown me more love and compassion than anyone deserves. They are great men of God.

To the staff of FCC. Many of thier lives changed that day to. They picked alot up and have carried the ball. What a great group to work with.

To a special Pastor friend named Deron, who continues to encourage me from a distance.

To Mike, who has picked up the ball in so many ways at church. He has taken on more than he dreamed, and still encourages and protects me.

To special friends who have picked up some things for me. There are too many to mention by name. God knows who they are.

I could go on and on. ( And I know I will miss people... which is the problem when you start naming people.)

What will the coming year hold for me? I really don't know, but I know that God holds my future in His hands. There could be more changes... probably will be. I know that if I trust God, step out on faith and follow His lead, I could be in no better place.

I am thankful for that!