By Pastor Jon Exman
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
October 2, 2013
In July, Dustin Wray and Lauren Taylor booked a night at the beautiful Woodlands Resort in Houston, TX after attending a concert there. While filling out the online booking form Dustin answered the special request/comments section that all hotels have. Only instead of making a request or a comment he made a joke. Dustin figured that the hotel wouldn’t even notice the comment. This is his exact comment: “Three red M&Ms on the counter. Not packages, just three single M&Ms. One for me, one for my girlfriend, and one to split if we get hungry late at night. And a picture of bacon set on the bed. I love pictures of bacon.” Not for one minute did he take his requests seriously. But the hotel did.
When they arrived for their stay the room was exactly like they asked “including 3 single red M&M’s on the counter and a picture of bacon on the bed. Of course this made the news everywhere. It was not I’m sure the first outrageous request and it will surely not be the last. It got me thinking though. What kind of outrageous requests do we ask of God? Luke 11:9 says, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” People often misuse and miss the point about this verse. They use it as a blank check for their every whim. Maybe a scenario occurs like the one below.
Us: Ummm God, if you let the Buckeyes win I will go to church every week for the next month.
God: Hey nice to hear from you. It’s been a while.
Us: Sooo what do you think about the Buckeyes thing?
Really, though, Luke is saying to us be constant. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, don’t stop. Our requests shouldn’t be a once in a while Hail Mary saying, “Hey God are you there?” The requests shouldn’t be outrageous but what is outrageous is that we don’t keep asking, seeking, and knocking.
September 6, 2013
Anybody that knows me knows I love a good “high five.” When I was a youth minister I loved to give “high fives” because of the reaction you would get. Try it sometime. Put your hand up to someone and say”High Five” and see what people do. Most will give you five. It’s so hard not to, you feel as if you are leaving the person hanging. Whether or not, you deem the “high five” cool or not, you still feel as if you must respond. It’s also just a great way to communicate with someone. “Hey, nice to meet you. High Five!”
Well, that little intro brings me to this, my kids are like their father, they love to give “high fives.” While we are at Myrtle Beach we have a favorite night time passion. There is a trail at our campground that runs parallel to the beach. From about 9pm-11pm this road becomes the “cruising line.” People drive their golf carts up and down this road playing music and talking to each other across the line. It is a fun and family atmosphere. The really interesting part is this. People sit along each side of the roads and give the golf cart rider’s “high fives.” I don’t remember where this tradition came from, but it occurs every night during the Summer months. Let me say it again, My Kids Love “High Fives!” So, every night of our vacation we would have to drive to give “High Fives.” On certain nights we would be doing other things so by the time we got home it would be time for them to go to bed. They still wanted to go and give their fives, so the rule was they could do it in their PJ’s.
Well, the last night we were there Jaxon gave “High Fives” in his Sponge Bob PJ’s. Jaxon loves Sponge Bob. This exchange occurred a few weeks ago at our house. My wife walked through the living room and said,”Why are you watching Sponge Bob?” I replied, “I am not; Jaxon is.” My wife replied Jaxon is outside playing with Sammy. Draw your own conclusions from this exchange. J People were giving “High Fives” and laughing and having a great time. Suddenly a large group of people appeared on our right. They began laughing and pointing at my son. Instantly my Father antenna was up. Father’s don’t allow strangers to make fun of their children. I got ready to say something to them and scold them on their rudeness when I heard this from a woman who seemed to be the group leader. She crouched down to get on Jaxon’s level and touched the front of his shirt and said, “Bob le Sponge!” with a huge smile on her face. The rest of the group responded in kind, “Bob le Sponge!” We drove ahead and turned the corner and stopped.
It was one of those moments in life where you have to process. I explained to the kids that the group was French Canadian. French is the language that they were speaking. After we figured that out; Sammy said it best; “They love Sponge Bob too!” So for the rest of the week the kids were excited that they now knew French. “Bob le Sponge.”
I heard a saying once. None of my circumstances had changed but my disposition had changed. Why because I walked and talked with a friend. I understood this now. Our circumstances had changed for my kids. They had made a connection with a group of people that were different from them; all because of a shared experience. Sponge Bob! This is the same with being a Christian. If we tell others about our faith we can gain a shared experience in Christ. The language may sound different but the result is still the same. Share your faith this week! While you are at it; give me a High Five!
July 19, 2013
About 10pm last night I finally had a chance to sit down. (It takes a while to wrestle my 3 youngest to bed; but that is a whole other story.) I was flipping through the channels and I came across the ESPYS. If you have never heard of the ESPYS they are ESPN’s version of OSCAR night. The sports world gets together and honors the teams and individuals that had an impact in their respective sports. As I began to watch, a feature was being done on Robin Roberts who was getting the Arthur Ashe Courage award. Robin Roberts was a former sports announcer who was now a co-host of Good Morning America. I knew little of who she was but came away from the next few minutes wanting to know more.
Robin Roberts grew up in Pass Christian, Mississippi. She was Salutatorian of her high school class and upon graduating was offered a basketball scholarship to LSU. After visiting there Roberts decided that LSU was too big for her and her small town roots, so she enrolled in Southeastern Louisiana University. Robin played basketball at Southeastern and went on to become the school’s 3rd all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball. (In 2011, the school retired her jersey.) It was after her graduation that Robin really came into her own. She found her calling in Journalism. She started off her broadcasting career in small towns and TV stations until 1995 when she signed on with Good Morning America. Robin became a household name in the fall of 2005 when she anchored a series of emotional reports from the Mississippi Gulf Coast after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina; her hometown of Pass Christian was especially hard hit, with her old high school completely reduced to rubble. During these reports Roberts repeatedly broke down from seeing the devastation first hand. She thought she would be fired for being unprofessional, instead she was told how proud others were of her willingness to be “herself”.
After she reached the stage, this classy lady then began her acceptance speech and told her story. In 2007 Roberts was diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer. It was an incredibly trying time for her involving chemotherapy and radiation. She developed a motto during this time, “When fear knocks, let faith answer the door.” The closeness of her family and the faith that they show is refreshing to see. Soon after Roberts began to feel like cancer was behind her it struck again in the form of MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome. Roberts was diagnosed with this form of cancer last year and required a bone marrow transplant (Her sister was her donor). This ordeal was arduous and painful. It was a journey that she put on live on the internet so others could see and donate to cancer research. Something else though became visible; Robins faith began to shine through. It was powerful imagery. She understood the honor of the award that she was given, she still gave homage to those struggling along side of her. “There are many worthy of holding this honor, others who have exhibited far more courage, strength and resilience, and it’s humbling for me to represent you tonight, I draw strength from you. You give me the courage to face down any challenge, to know when fear knocks, to let faith answer the door.” Her focus during this time was the prayers of “those I knew and those I may never know; For allowing me to be a message of Hope and a symbol of”this too shall pass.”
It chilled me to the bone in an awe-inspiring way. Faith in the face of adversity. Faith in the face of insurmountable odds. Faith and Hope. Thank you God for showing us your love. For giving us symbols of hope and strength like Robin Roberts.
June 24, 2013
I had never worked for something so hard in my life. The time and effort I had put into getting ready to play college basketball; Hold on just a minute I am getting ahead of myself. In 1990 I decided to attend Mount Vernon Nazarene College to get my degree and play college basketball, a lifelong goal. I had gone to MVNC, not on a scholarship, but on a “promise” from the coach. Now, just getting ready to begin my freshman year that coach was gone and another was in his place and I had been “cut.” Never had a word hurt so deeply. I had never felt anything like this. I am not saying that my life had been perfect to that point, but I had never had a feeling like this. I wasn’t “good enough.” I was crushed and nothing could change my feelings. I am not going to lie to you, but I felt a little like God had deserted me. I came to MVNC to begin preparations for ministry and being a lifelong servant. Getting cut, made me feel like God was saying, “Thanks for wanting to help Jon, but you’re just not good enough.” It wasn’t right but it was what I felt.
That night I went to the midweek service we had at Mount Vernon and it was there that I was confronted with something I had forgotten; Philippians 4:13. The message was about walking with God and remembering it’s not about you; it’s about Him. It wasn’t the strength that I had but the strength given to me through Christ. It was there that I realized the impact of Philippians 4:13. I spent so much time focusing on what I had done that I forgot that the work that been done THROUGH CHRIST who gives me the strength to begin with. At that moment, none of my circumstances had changed but my disposition had changed because I remembered a verse that had meant a lot to me. I was not alone. I did things through Christ who gave me strength. I began that year in earnest to “achieve my goal of playing college basketball.” The next season came and I had indeed done it I was on the team, ready to play. The season was ready to begin and I couldn’t shake this feeling I was having. Maybe I was playing basketball for the wrong reasons. All this time I thought basketball was something God wanted me to do because I was good at it, but maybe it was really for this lesson I had learned about who gives me strength. I decided not to play and I felt freer in Christ than I ever had in my life. Philippians 4:13 became real to me that year. I understood. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” So many Christians miss the point on this verse. They focus on the “I can do” and don’t see the “through Christ.” What can you do through Christ today? How does the “through Christ” in your life strengthen you?