Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cash Flow

In the past year, we've learned more about trusting God in the area of money than ever before. I learned another lesson this weekend that God really does order what he pays for.

In Malachi 3, God invites us to test Him in the area of tithing. In other words, He will provide for our monetary needs when we're giving Him the first 10 percent and whatever else He tells us to give.

My friend Norman said that whenever he speaks in other churches, he always puts something in the offering so he can invest in that ministry. As I was pulling into Starbucks (thank you Jesus for Sunday nights at River Stone) early Sunday morning before preaching twice at Grand Parkway in Sugar Land, I remembered the words of my friend. I immediately began to feel convicted about investing in their ministry, but the battle raged in my mind that we can't really afford it. We're about to buy a house, and we need every extra penny we can get. Then the words, "test me in this" echoed in my head. I used my debit card to buy my venti caramel latte, and got some cash back for the offering at Grand Parkway. Then it occurred to me that there were two services, and I wanted to contribute in each service, so I went to buy a pack of gum so I could get some change. I was going to put ten bucks in each service. Well, the only checkout lane that was open was the self-checkout and there was no one around. I've never used cash at the self-checkout. So, I put in my $20 for my $1.05 gum. When my change came out, instead of there being $18.95 there was $23.95. Again, what do I do? There's no one around, and I'm running late. I decided this transaction was providence and that I would drop it in the offering plate. You probably would've hunted down a manger and told him the story of the machine making an error and had him stuff the money back in the machine. I took this as an act of justice for all of the times the self-checkout has ruined my day. Anyway, stop judging me and read on ...

So, I got to the church and put on the mic and some guys wanted to pray for me. These guys were older and wiser than me, men who have served the Lord for a long time who take great delight in asking God to do great things in worship that day. After convincing one of them that I really was the guy who was preaching that day ... they laid hands on me, and I felt the thermostat in the room elevate to "Holy Spirit is Here". It was amazing. The Lord was answering their prayers, and it was beautiful. When we were done praying, one of the men put something in my pocket. He said, "I made a little extra money this week, and while we were praying God told me to give it to you." I told him thanks, and thanked Jesus that His Word is true and does not return void. This is the kind of stuff that never happened to me until recently, and now it happens all the time. A dinner here, a reimbursement at just the right time, a rebate in the knick of time, a servant with an extra Benjamin. It makes it a lot easier to write that tithe check every week in order to continue to receive the blessing and provision of God. Thank you, Jesus, and thank you again Norman for your continual teaching. It goes on even when you go back to the UK.

My challenge is to test God in the area of finances. Read Malachi 3 if you have any questions. God Bless.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Short Bus Tale ...

It is true that in my elementary school days, I was a beneficiary of the school bus. For the most part, I was not a big fan. Many times I found ways to miss the bus so that I would have alternative means of transportation. One time I hid from the substitute bus driver. Other times I chose to walk all the way home in the Houston heat. I didn't enjoy the school bus experience, and it was quite a dose of reality for a kid.

For a couple of those years, the bus that I was assigned to (#772) was shorter than many of the normal busses. It was a "short bus" as seen on the left here - a Bluebird to be specific. While it was short in length (not height), it did not contain seatbelts, rails, lifts, or any other "special" features. It was just short. That's all. The other bus seen above is also a "short bus" complete with lift, seatbelts, rails, special mirrors, and more. My bus (#772) did not have any special equipment.

Recently, my beautiful wife and my friend Brian thought that it would be funny to dwell, and when I say dwell I mean beating the horse for about an hour past the time it breathed its last, on the fact that my sole transportation to and from school was a bus that was not as long as many other busses. It was a "short bus", but not the "short bus" that you're thinking of. I furthermore won't reveal the derogatory slang that they used to refer to the bus on the right, and for some reason I have an overwhelming need to explain this to the general public since my wife and my friend won't listen.

While I learned important lessons about life (it hurts a lot less to be punched in the back than in the arm or head, all cuss words are not created equal, some bus drivers have a phallic symbol on their key chain, that you can in fact peel out in a bus, when the guy next to you had pancakes for breakfast - his clothes smell like it all day, being introduced to rap music from the small boom box above the driver's mirror, if you got to the bus stop early you could work in a game of Excitebike at Sunny's, do unto others as you would have them to unto you, etc.) I never considered my bus experience "special", even though apparently some close to me - whom I didn't know at the time - do.

I also must say that at the end of elementary school, my bus was big - large - huge - full size. That's right, I was not limited to the "short bus" for my entire elementary school career. I eventually grew out of it.

While I don't have any animosity or ill-will towards those who rode the bus on the right, I did not ride THAT bus, and I feel more than compelled to plead my case on this matter in this context. So, thank you "short bus" for my many lessons learned and for preparing me for the ridicule and mocking I now must endure because of you. I'm a better and more complete person for riding you, and my heart hurts for those who were robbed of the opportunity to learn what I have learned. God Bless the "Short Bus".

Many Blessings to all Former Riders of the "Short Bus".

The End.