ARLINGTON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
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From the Pastor's Desk

 


Lee.jpg Blowing In The Wind!

I had a great experience a few weeks ago.  My brother's kids gave him a hot air balloon ride for Father's Day.  He is such a good brother that he invited me to go with him.  (In all honesty my sister-in-law is afraid of such things and how could he pick among eight kids?  So it was a great bit of luck for me.)  We had to go north to a town between Dayton and Cincinnati for this adventure.  It was a beautiful evening for ballooning.  If you have ever seen this kind of balloon floating around Lexington late in the evening, you know that they are at the mercy of the wind.  The wind cannot be very strong - five to seven m.p.h. is as fast as it should be for safety reasons.  And you have to be aware of the direction the wind is blowing because that is the direction you will fly.

Ballooning is not an individual activity.  One person might be able to get a balloon ready to fly and take off into the wild blue yonder, but you need a friend to keep track of where you are and then to follow you to where you land.  In most areas the trip is one way, then you need a ride home.  There were six passengers on that flight. Part of our ballooning experience was in helping to prepare the balloon for flight, and later packing it up.  Much to our delight, there were two other balloons that took off from the same park that evening.  Watching them was as interesting as watching the landscape pass by.  Because all were riding the breeze, all three went in about the same direction at the same speed.  But there was still some control based on the altitude the balloon was floating.

After about an hour of floating over the Ohio countryside, our pilot spotted what looked like a very small backyard that was about a half mile away; and he decided to set down in it.  With amazing precision he cleared a power pole and a flowerbed and set the balloon just where it needed to be.  The chase vehicle was only a couple minutes behind us.  By the time we had settled onto the ground, the chaser was there to help.

The man who lived there came out from his garage and our pilot asked if it was okay if we landed there.  Well, it was more than okay.  He went to get his wife and young son to see what was going on in their yard, and all of them seemed very happy and excited to have a balloon land there.  The guy offered us cold beer and use of their bathroom.  (Southern hospitality can be found north of the Ohio River.)  The homeowner even helped in packing up the balloon.  He and his wife both asked if the balloon could land there again.  Our pilot explained that he never knows where he will end up, but would keep their invitation in mind.  Eight of us piled into the chase-Suburban and rode back to the park where our cars were.

I don't have enough room in the newsletter to break this story down into all of the possible lessons.  Hospitality is one lesson.  The beauty of God's creation that you can see from above is another.

One thing I will expand on is our ability to choose our own direction in life.  This goes for our individual lives, as well as our corporate lives.  There are many factors we have to deal with that are beyond our control.  Just like a balloon in the wind, we may be pushed in a general direction that we cannot resist.  But also, like a piloted balloon that can change altitude to find different wind speeds and directions, we have options that can make differences in where and how we end up in life.

As human beings, all of us are going through an aging process.  When we are two years old, that process brings physical and mental growth, along with an increase in strength and abilities.  Some parents work to help their kids get the most out of this time by pushing them to use each new ability and to develop it.  Other parents don't make the effort, and their kids grow anyway.  We get pushed along in that general direction of aging regardless of circumstances.

When we hit our late teens and early twenties, our physical growth has probably slowed or stopped, but we still are changing.  How we take care of ourselves determines if we get lean and muscular, or lean and weak, or fat and muscular, or fat and weak.  Our minds continue to develop and hopefully we grow wiser if not smarter.  We can work our brains and accumulate great stores of knowledge.  Or we can coast along and not take advantage of our intelligence.  Or we can abuse our minds with substances and end up mental vegetables.  We are always moving in the general direction of aging; but at this age, we don't put a lot of consideration into where we might have to land.

If we live long enough to become middle-aged, we discover that there are still new directions we can go.  There is no stopping the aging journey, but most of us can choose to alter our paths enough to make a difference in how these years go.  We can be active or sedate.  We can try new things like hobbies or even a new type of work.  Many people have grown bored with their lives in middle age and try out crazy distractions, maybe just to prove to themselves they are still young and capable.  More people continue with their familiar lifestyle because it is comforting.  We try as hard as we can to deny it, but we start to look at the future with a different mindset.  Not only are we enjoying the view that passes by, but we start to realize that at some point we are going to need a safe place to land.  We may try to start saving more money in order to drift toward a more secure future.  We may take a critical look at our eating habits and our exercise routines to carry us farther and better.

When we reach maturity - or old age - it is a different kind of situation.  The gas is running low, and we know the burner can't stay lit forever.  We look back at our starting point and begin to question decisions we made over our journey.  So much of where we are in this stage of our lives is dependent upon how we have lived in our earlier years.  If we have abused our bodies and minds, we may find our options are pretty limited because we can't get around like we want.  We may have used all of our income to live on, and now we don't have any financial cushion for some of the fun things we planned on doing.  We may have done everything right and still find our options to be limited.  But we still have options.  We cannot give up and let the wind blow us blindly into our future.

All of us will have to land at some point.  My balloon flight ended with a couple of bumps and jolts and surprised exclamations by the passengers.  It was not a blind landing.  Our pilot took great care to bring us down where we would be safe.  We are our own pilots in life.  We are responsible for what we do in whatever situation we find ourselves.  Our flight is not over until everything has been secured and packed up and put away.  Only then can we enjoy freedom that goes beyond drifting as the wind blows.

Until that time, may God provide you with favorable breezes.
Bro. Lee


PREVIOUS NOTE FROM THE PASTOR



Friends.

Almost everyone wants a friend - but few people actually have real "friends."  Sure, you will hear someone say, "I have 238 Facebook friends."  For many, these e-friends have replaced our hug-friends.  Fewer people than ever actually have life-long intimate friends anymore.

Most people are lucky if they have one "close friend" in their lifetime.  People are more mobile, making it harder to make and keep such a friend.

In worship, we have been looking at the life of shepherd/giant-killer/king David.  David and Jonathan (Saul’s son) were true friends.  It is a friendship that most of us only hope to have.

Read these scriptures as background:  1Samuel 18:1-4 and 1Samuel 19:1-10.

One of Webster’s definitions of a friend is:  "a person on the same side in a struggle; one who is not an enemy or foe but an ally."

Some non-dictionary definitions are:  "One who multiplies joys, divides grief, and whose honesty is trustworthy." - "One who understands our silence." - "A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out."

David had a friend who came in when the world had gone out.  David was working in Saul’s Court, and his success made Saul jealous to the point he tried to kill him.  David had to go on the run.  This was probably the worst thing he had ever faced.

It was during this period of David’s life that God showed his faithfulness and his love for David by providing Jonathan to be a true friend.  God used Jonathan to meet the needs of David as he journeyed through this dark valley.

Saul hated David.  The Israelites loved David - so did Saul’s son and daughter.

It’s a fact:  the closer you get to becoming the man or woman God wants you to be - the more enemies you’ll create.  It’s also true that the closer you get to becoming the man or woman God wants you to be, the more attractive you become to others.

There was a reason why Jonathan and his sister both were drawn to David -- David was a person of exemplary character whose integrity and honor showed in the way he lived.  A person like that is attractive on the inside, and they make excellent friends.

When you and I grow in the image of Jesus Christ, there will be something attractive about us that has nothing to do with our external appearances.

To have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend.  We’ve got to be the kind of person with whom others want to be friends.

If you want a close friend, think about the story of David and Jonathan.

First:  a true friend is willing to sacrifice.  Jonathan gave David his robe, his armor, his sword, his bow, and his belt.  He literally gave David his place as King.

True friendship means an ability to put another’s needs, desires, and wishes above those of your own.  Ultimately it’s what Jesus showed when he laid down his life for us, reminding us of his words in John 15:13 that "No one has greater love than this:  to lay down one’s life for a friend."  Sacrifice is the ultimate example of intimate friendship.

Second, a friend is loyal in defending you to others.

Jonathan went to his father - his King - and said, "Dad, you’re wrong about David."  He said, "Why are you going to kill him when he’s innocent?"  Saul agreed and David was brought back into the palace.

The third characteristic of intimate friendship is that intimate friends give each other complete freedom to be themselves.

There’s something very comforting about being around someone who accepts you for who you are.  You don’t have to explain why you do what you do.  You can just do it.

When your heart is broken, you can weep all over a friend, and he/she will understand.  He/she won’t tell you to straighten up and be a "man."  Intimate friends let each other hurt.  They weep together.  A friend lets you complain, and he/she listens.  Intimate friends stay with you.  Intimate friends allow you to be yourself no matter what your self looks like.

The final characteristic is that an intimate friend is a steady source of encouragement.  When Saul went out to kill David, Jonathan went to David and encouraged him in God.  That’s the kind of friend to have.  He saw David at the lowest moment of his life, frightened and stumbling through the wilderness, and he brought him encouragement.  "There’ll be a brighter day some day, but right now I’m here with you, no matter what."

How many of us can actually say that we have a friend like Jonathan was to David?

You know, it doesn’t hurt to ask God for a Jonathan.  We have a tendency to underemphasize the power of prayer.  Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find."  God wants us to have these kind of relationships.

God will help you find a Jonathan, if you’ll only ask.

Bro. Lee