Pastor Harvey VS the Porcelain Throne

I love my wife. I really do. She’s pretty swell. And, she puts up with me. Odds were that I wouldn’t be able to find 1 person in the 6 or 7 billion people on the planet that would love me, put up with me, and make me a better person, but I did. She’s pretty awesome.

Normally, I put something that I think is worthy of reflection, or thought on here. But if you’ve heard any of my sermons, you may know that I like to laugh, make others laugh, and attempt to work in jokes now and then.

Of course, last week, my jokes went over like a lead balloon. Kiera still doesn’t get the one I told on Sunday. But that’s another story. Breaking from my normal routine, I would like to provide you all with a written account of my morning.

I’m doing the music at a revival in Bay Minette this week. We’re having a wonderful time. Combined with that, and our men’s Bible study that began yesterday morning at 6:30am, and some extra time I put in over the last few days, I took a few hours off from the normal routine this morning to engage in anything but normal activities.

You see, Sarah bought the kids some of those “swishie cups” as they like to call them:

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Yeah, those. And on day #1, you guessed it.

Ben runs in saying – “Mommy, the toilet won’t flush!”

Can you guess why? Yup! He had decided that flushing his used cup down the toilet was the proper way of disposing of those cups.

Combine this with some visiting family this week, and we had a fair urgency to get the toilet flushing again. Except for one problem – I’m too cheap to pay someone else to fix it, too proud to beg someone to help for free, and too incapable of repairing it myself.

So this morning, I woke up with a superhero shirt on and decided that I would be my wife’s hero. I would fix the toilet!

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Now mind you, I can barely gas up a car. If I repair anything, it is only because God Himself imparted to me the wisdom and grace needed – because when it comes to being a handy man, I am not.

Top things my wife does:

1. Kills spiders.

2. Repairs things

3. Finds my wallet for me

4. Finds my keys for me

5. Finds other things for me

6. Finds me a shirt when I complain that I no longer own any

7. Occasionally, keeps a chocolate stash that I know nothing about, so that when I become a desperate raving lunatic, she reveals the chocolate stash, thus saving the day and becoming my own little heroine.

So, in this twisted household of role reversal, I decide that this toilet is no match for me. I’ve preached to hundreds and have played piano to thousands. I’ve been to 8 or 10 countries! I know at least 30 words in spanish! I have several expensive pieces of paper on my office wall saying that education institutions believe I was smart enough and paid them enough that I could have their endorsement for several activities.

This toilet doesn’t stand a chance!

So, I get out my phone and pull up a “how to change the wax seal” on the bottom of a toilet. My rationale is – that cup is in there somewhere, and I have to break the seal, so that’s how I’m going to go about it.”

Step 1 – remove all of the water – easy.

Step 2 – remove the screws – somewhat less easy, but I manage using a tool that I still don’t know what it is named. It looks like this:

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So I get that out. Not too much water gushes out – see step 1.

Step 3 – disconnect water. I managed.

Step 4 – Wiggle the toilet back and forth til the seal breaks, and lift it up.

Do you remember that scene in the Lord of the Rings in which Sam and Frodo are walking out of the Shire, and Sam tells Frodo, “This is as far as I’ve gone?”

Well, in the world of plumbing, I’ve already crossed that point. And for me to get a toilet off of the ground will, potentially, reveal a world of treasure and intrigue, the likes of which I’ve never experienced.

So, I manage.

Now, from here, I improvise. Because now I’m looking at a hole in the bathroom floor for the first time in my life, and there is no cup. Hmm.

So I need to look into the bottom of the toilet. But it is big, and heavy. So I improvise by taking the tank off of the bottom part. And so now, I have just the bottom part. I place it oh so precariously on the edge of the tub and look into the bottom of the toilet and – Bingo! A cup! And not just one, 2!

Now, The cup was facing up (though with the toilet tilted, it wasn’t) – and even applying a reasonable degree of mathematical equations and engineering principles would’ve arrived at the conclusion that the cups were liable to contain…foreign objects. But I’m just so excited that I haven’t broken anything yet, and so I stick my hand up in there to try to pry the cups out. And they wouldn’t budge.

So I grab the nearest screwdriver and started prying, and twisting, and poking, and—success!

My sister-in-law is staying with us for a few days and is sleeping in the next room. And this is the part where she heard me. Up until now, I’ve done my best to be quiet, as to not wake her up. But what happened next….the cups come out, and along with that, what they are holding drips from my hands, all the way down my arms, and I begin gagging, attempting not to throw up all over the bathroom, and thus making a horrible situation much, much worse.

Also, I have a toilet precariously balanced over the side of a tub.

Quickly I let the toilet down, because there’s a cup of poo in my free hand, and there is also a stream of poo coming from the toilet onto the bathroom floor now.

*CRACK*

Surely, she heard me again. Because now, I have a poo-filled arm, a poo-filled cup, a slowly-poo-filling bathroom floor, some poo in the tub, and a cracked toilet base.

Folks, I don’t do well with poo. I can’t clean up messes very well. I have a pretty bad gag reflex. And at this moment in life, about 4 hours ago at the time of writing this, I arrived at a God-given conclusion:

I could never be a plumber.

This has already been a long story, but to summarize the rest of it – I managed to put a new seal on the toilet and get it back on the floor. Turns out that the crack isn’t a deal-breaker – it didn’t go into the “main part” (forgive my highly educated technical jargon). Nothing that duct tape couldn’t fix!

My own life resembles this sometimes. It is a broken comedy of errors at times. To fix one thing is to send 3 or 4 other things to pieces. It is hard to be a good husband AND father AND pastor AND friend AND writer AND musician AND video-game-playing-extraordinaire. I just can’t do it. I can barely keep those things prioritized correctly, much less in working order at any given time.

Our natural inclination is to “work on things.” To fix it. To get out our toolbox and try to be a better person. And all the time, we are attempting to repair a problem that is not within our ability to repair.

The speaker at the revival put it well – we work so much on ourselves, worry about ourselves so much – we are so busy trying to make ourselves moral sinners – because that’s all we can do. We can address our own moral principles, but we cannot address our sin problem on our own. And even the most moral sinner out there falls miserably short of being in “original working order.”

Living in a relationship with God doesn’t start with having it all together. Rather, it starts in a resignation and a surrender. “God, I can’t fix this mess. I’m tired of trying. I surrender. My life is yours.”

And at that moment and onward, we cease being the construction foreman of our own lives, and fall into His perfect will, and find ourselves attended to by promises and the presence of God that far exceeds our own ability to build ourselves into good people.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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Being a Spiritual Door Greeter

Short Analogy #1

Last week, I had the opportunity to go out of town to visit a few very near and dear friends. I had a wonderful time. But the issue was this: I take blood pressure medicine. And without getting too graphic, it dehydrates me in the morning. It is a diuretic. So not only do I drink a lot liquid in the morning, I also get rid of a lot!

Pastor Harvey, why in the world are you letting us know this?

You see, about 90 minutes into the journey, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just HAD to stop. So I pulled into a Winn Dixie and was met by a nice fellow who greeted me as soon as I walked into the door. I said, “Sir, where is your bathroom?” And he directed me.

On the way out a short time later, the same gentleman was at the door. And I said, “I’ll buy something next time.” He said, “That’s ok. Have a nice day!”

 

Short Analogy #2

Before we had children, I was a different person. I like to think that I have calmed down and am in much more control of myself than I was 10 years ago. I really had an anger issue at times. Sometimes I directed it at those I loved; at other times it was directed in their defense.

Sarah came home from a trip with a sister-in-law very late and very bothered. I knew something was up. After prodding the information out of her, I arrived at the fact that she had been mistreated by an employee of a local club-warehouse-sales place. Even though we had an account that was current, the employee’s computer wasn’t showing it, so she heavily insinuated that Sarah was a liar, cheater, etc.

So I did what any reasonable person would do. I chopped up my membership card into 4 equal pieces. I mailed the 4 pieces to the local store, the regional office, the national office, and the better business bureau, explaining precisely what I thought of their company and why I would never set foot there again.

A reasonable reaction, yes?

 

 

What do these 2 analogies have in common?

We all represent something. The guy in Winn Dixie made me want to go back to Winn Dixie. The girl at that big store caused me to not step foot in there for many years (and I still only rarely frequent the place).

When we go into a store, a minimum wage employee often has the same power as the international president of that company. They represent that store. They are wearing the uniform and a nametag. They have been trained and authorized to represent that store or that company to us. And we as consumers often form a more positive or negative perception of that store based on even the part-time, minimum wage employee.

That employee could think, “I only work here 20 hours a week and barely make minimum wage. I could care less what this company looks like 10 years from now.”

Regardless, as you saw examples of in my analogies, the employees of corporations have that representative power to their consumers. Whether the employees think it is fair or not. Whether the consumer is fair in arriving at that opinion or not. You, Mr. Retired-senior-standing-at-the-front-door-greeter, have a huge amount of influence on whether I continue returning to your store, or stop doing so.

Did you know that it is the same way in our spiritual walk? People know if we are Christian or not. They usually know if we go to church or not. Hopefully, they can put 2 and 2 together by looking at our conduct, speech, and priorities.

And whether we like it or not, we are representing our entire company – that is the church, as well as our CEO – that is, Jesus Christ! We may think we are the lowliest of the low – just a minimum wage door greeter, but our influence over this world and their receptiveness of Christians is huge! And therefore, “poor customer service” simply isn’t an option.

We have to represent Jesus Christ accurately and continually. Because if we don’t, then the reputation of our Christian brothers and sisters, the church, and our Savior is harmed in the eyes of those who need us the most!

Maybe it’d be nice to live in a little box, unnoticed and unobserved by the world. The introvert side of me would enjoy that at times. But today, I will be on display. It is as if I will have a balloon I am carrying around with me that says, “Christian Husband, Father, and Pastor.” People know who I am. They will watch me to see if what I do and say matches up.

They will watch you too. That’s why it IS important what you do. How you do it. What your attitude is. What your speech is. How you present yourself to others. How you act in traffic. In a line at the grocery store. At family reunions. With people who have disappointed you. In every single situation that you’ll face today, you face as much more than an employee – if you’re a believer, you face as one who represents your Savior.

I’ve had people try to convince me otherwise. That it doesn’t matter what they say or do. I’ve heard pastors who can swear with the best of them. I’ve seen people proclaim Christ, but live completely opposite of His teachings.

Don’t take who you are lightly. Seek to provide fantastic customer service today! Remember your actions affect how others see your Christian brothers and sisters, your church, and your God. If people know a Christian is supposed to be one thing, but see us being entirely the opposite, they will have reason to call us hypocritical. Give people a reason to want to know God, not a reason to reject Him more.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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Brief thought on 9-11

The fact that today, I will have normal conversations (have already had several), pray with people over prayer requests, tell and hear jokes, sing, lead a Bible study, conduct business, eat a meal, and read my Bible speaks to me not so much of a resiliency of the American spirit, but rather, of our dependence upon the steadfastness of a faithful God.

Getting ready to go to work that day and seeing the disasters that happened to our nation was a day I will never forget, like many of you. I still went to work, but none of my appointments showed up, and I just watched the TV all day as I inwardly began to process what was happening.

Today, I slept in 30 minutes (thanks Sarah!), milled around a bit at home, had my favorite breakfast served to me by my sweet 7 year old girl while I was still in bed, came in to work, had a phone conversation with a very dear friend on the way, lowered the flag to half-staff, cleaned all the love bugs out of the carpet of my office (if you don’t know what a love bug is, you owe it to yourself to google it), and have opened my Bible and began the process of relying upon God to live this day. And the fact that I can do all that today reminds me of God’s faithfulness even through tragedy. Whether the day after, or a decade later or more, God’s faithfulness is endless, matchless, and continually present.

And while the sting has dulled a bit from 9/11 – time has had her healing effect on our nation to some degree – we are reminded of the words of the prophet during a terrible time of Israel’s history – found in Lamentations 3:

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 

20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 

21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 

22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 

24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Why I run

Last year, I had lost a substantial (over 50 lbs) amount of weight by running. I ran alot. Since moving to Alabama, my diet has been less than spectacular, and my running has dropped off a fair bit.

Last night, I decided to go running. Now, I’ve ran off and on since I’ve been here. I haven’t completely stopped. It isn’t as bad as starting over for me – but I couldn’t come close to my 5k time from last year in my current shape.

One thing is true – as much as I like what running does for me, I’m really not fond of running in and of itself. I do it because I can do it. I don’t have anyone to go to the gym with me on my weird schedule, so I really don’t know what I’m doing in a weight room. But I do have a nice pair of shoes and a safe neighborhood. And I enjoy being by myself and recharging while I run. But I tell you this – no more than 20 minutes into the run, several things are happening in my body.

1. I can actively feel my face melting. Face droplets are running down the rest of my face. I am leaving parts of my face on the road as I run. This continues for about half an hour after I run, too.

2. I believe people gawk at me when I run. “That guy is much too big to be running.” They watch me run for the same reason I watch NASCAR. They are afraid I’m going to wipe out right there in the street, and they have their camera phones ready.

3. My legs do ok. They are more or less in similar shape from last year. But my breathing….I feel like I am trying to breathe underwater. My lungs hurt. Various pains want me to contort myself as I am running.

4. I sweat so much. I do not like sweat. I don’t mind sweating, but I do not like sweat. It is icky. It is smelly. I don’t like it on me, or on other people. Sweat is a blight upon this world.

So, you may ask, why did I go running last night? Because when I woke up this morning, I had the health and the body I wanted, of course! I finished my weight loss in one go. My health problems all melted away. My blood pressure is normal again! Yay!

Of course not. It will take months to reach those goals, if not more. And it will take a lifetime of being committed to those goals to remain at them. I know this. That’s just part of life.

But that actually isn’t what I’m writing about. Keep reading – follow me!

In life we see stuff and we want it. The value of hard, committed work for a valuable end result has been negated in our society. We, instead, have been pitched this idea of instant gratification – get rich quick schemes, credit cards, fast food joints, digital photography, the internet – things that used to take time are near instant now. Whether fortune, large purchases, hamburgers, photos, information, or whatever, we’re used to snapping our fingers and receiving.

Our personal heath is an exception to this. Despite the many claims to the contrary, there isn’t a secret, easy way to be fit and to have a healthy lifestyle. Rather, what made a person healthy in 2,000 BC, 100 AD, or 1500 AD is still what does the trick in 2013. Eating right and giving attention to the body is the answer.

There is another notable exception. It is our spiritual walk. It is very similar to our physical health, in some ways. There are no shortcuts. There is no “secret method.” The same way to be a believer in Jesus Christ today was the same way 10, 100, or 1000 years ago. In fact, the metaphor of running a race is so relevant, that Paul chooses to use it in describing his own walk in the 3rd chapter of Philippians:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t that interesting? So, what conclusions can we draw from this simple comparison?

1. The choice to run is ours. I didn’t have to run last night. I could’ve stayed in and played a video game, watched a movie, played a game with a kid, whatever. But I chose to run.

The choice to walk with Christ is ours. He gave us free will. We aren’t forced to live a Christian life. This is evident by the myriads of people who choose not to. It is, in fact, a harder choice to run than to stay indoors. And likewise, it is a more difficult choice to walk with Christ than to fail to do so.

2. We run with the finish in mind. When I run, I run to the end of our neighborhood. My little subdivision ends at a fair distance away from my house. But when I get to that point, I have no choice but to turn around and go back to the start (the finish). I have put myself in the position that I can’t short-cut myself, I can’t cheat, and I can’t stop. No – if I want to get in a nice warm shower and hug on my kids, then I have to go to the finish line.

Paul says – forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Are we trying to cheat ourselves out of the finish line? We have to run with the finish in mind. It would be easy to stop on the side of the road. It’d be easy for me when running to listen to my body and stop – “I can’t do this anymore!” But the rewards for completion are far greater, and I have to keep those rewards in mind when running.

3. Running is long-term. I didn’t solve my health problems by running last night. I didn’t, in fact, lose all my weight (The bowl of ice-cream I had when I got back probably didn’t help either). No – I’m going to have to repeat the process many, many times if I want to get back to where I was a year ago. It is far from instant gratification. It is a lifestyle.

Our spiritual walk is also long-term. The greatest rewards often are born out of a period of time with a continual, consistent walk with Christ. As I run consistently, I start to be a better runner. I drop weight. My health improves. People eventually even began noticing and commenting last year. The same is true spiritually. One quiet time is important in the same way the first few steps are important. But the greatest and biggest changes come when we have committed ourselves to the course. When we stop being a person who is running, and start being a runner. When I stop being a person who does Christian things (go to church, try to be good), and become a person who is, inside and out, a Christian.

4. You will never regret finishing a run. I’ve ran 6 or 8 5ks. Some have been good and some have been bad. I felt wonderful after breaking the 30 minute barrier last year. It was a huge goal! But, I never regretted running one of those races.

The prize at the end of our spiritual journey – the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is greater than any temporary prize we could ever achieve here. Spending eternity with God is of more joy than all of our other joys combined.

So, consider running. Make the choice to start. Envision the end result – the finish. Remember, one run won’t do – you have to become a runner. And finally, consider what the prize will be.

You’ll never regret it!

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Pastor Harvey approaching a finish line in 2012

Living urgently

Have you ever experienced an urgency in your life? Yes – probably so! I experience an urgency on a regular basis as I’m one of those people who utterly despise being late to places. I’m always 5 – 10 minutes ahead, or I’m making myself miserable! So whether there’s urgency in getting the kids to school, or getting the sermon finished, there’s always a deadline that can’t be negotiated!

Last night I had the blessing of hearing my father preach down in Summerdale again. I love dad’s sermons, but I always have particularly enjoyed his topics of end-time and prophecy – Revelation, Thessalonians, Daniel, Matthew (and he touched on all of these passages last night).

Dad preaching last night in Summerdale

Every time I hear a good sermon on the end time, it is like something quickens within my spirit and begins to tell me, “He is coming back SOON! There’s no time to waste!” And my heart begins beating faster, and with a little more excitement, and I realize just how close to the end of this age I believe we are. We are one good situation away from the world barreling straight into the last set of prophecies, and every time I read the news, I ask myself, “Will this be the way in which we are propelled toward the end?”

I remember growing up, being so mindful of the return of the Lord, that I was actually believing even as a young person that I would never live to the age I am now. I believed the Lord would come back before now (see the 1 Thess verse later on in this post for a description of that day).

This morning, I read Philippians, the second chapter. A packed chapter – full of doctrine, and encouragement, and advice. There’s quite a few recognizable verses in Phil 2. Among them is verse 12 – “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And when I read that this morning, it sparked in me a reminder of how I felt as I was listening to the sermon on the end-times last night.

So often, there is no fear and trembling in our walk. As serious as we are about life, jobs, education, and relationships, it is tragic that we can be the most casual about the one thing with the greatest joy or greatest devastation in our life – our relationship with our Creator. In many instances, people just have a casual relationship with a “guy upstairs,” and there’s no urgency for their walk with Christ and no brokenness for those around them who are lost without Him.

Between last night and this morning, I had already lost that urgency. And it is very possible that I may lose it again before the day is up. Though, I pray that to not be the case.

But to live a life without some knowledge or regards to what God says will still yet happen is to read a book without worrying about the end – is to go to school without worrying about graduation – is about getting a degree with no regards to eventual employment, is to do anything without cognizance of the intended end result. Except, it is on a much greater, and potentially terrifying scale.

I closed my eyes and imagined what it will be like up there. Most of you reading this can probably quote some of or part of the song, “I can only imagine.” And it is a song that gives comfort and happiness. It talks about a place with no pain or suffering.

Revelation 21:4 says,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And yet, many of us are relying on false promises to attain that glorious end one day.

But do we know the “He” of Revelation 21:4? We can’t know Him based on our own system of knowing someone. We can’t know Him based on our own qualifications for knowing Him. We have to know Him based on what He says about knowing Him. And that involves trusting Him, believing Him, accepting His death for our sins, and living a life of surrender and submission for Him, as His grace helps us to grow in Him.

Some of us try to be a good person, and we end up being a good person. But when you compare our goodness, as good as it can be, to the “Goodness” of God, we fall miserably short, and thus, we can’t experience eternal joy nor a relationship with Christ simply by being a good person. 

Some of us believe that there are many roads to attain that eternal joy, and by having some sort of a spiritual journey or adventure, we will find ourselves “taken care of one day.” However, that is completely contradictory to Scripture. In order to spend time in God’s presence for eternity, we must recall the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:6 –

 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It is comforting to think about the place that heaven is, but only if I’m sure I’m going to actually be there one day. Of much less comfort should be the condition and worry of one who doesn’t know how they are going to get there, and considers how close to heaven’s opening we may be.

I know many good people, whom I love and respect. Yesterday, we showed a video in church. And one of the statements went like this – “I know of know greater love one could show to his fellow man than to share the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

Don’t try to “good” yourself into heaven. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. I couldn’t do it anymore than you can.

Time is urgent. It is short. I don’t know when I’ll go to heaven – whether my death will send me, or whether I will experience 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

If you believe in God, then that verse probably has one of two effects on you. It either fills you with hope, or fills you with an uncertain dread. One of the greatest experiences the human can have is, I believe, to be experiencing the fulfillment of being caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And one of the most terrifying, desperate experiences we could ever imagine is to watch as others experience that, but we don’t.

I actually believe I’ll experience 1 Thessalonians in my lifetime. I still do not believe I’ll live to be an old man. But regardless, may we live with such urgency that we’ll have no regrets when the end comes, no matter which form it takes – whether we are taken through death, or through this experience – verse 18 of 1 Thessalonians says, 

“Therefore encourage one another with these words.”Image

If you are not encouraged by those words – if you are confused, afraid, or even oblivious, I’d love to talk to you and share with you. I’ll listen. I’ll do my best to answer any questions. But, especially if you are a friend or family member of mine, the greatest love I can ever show you, despite my imperfections, is to show you how to begin your life as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It would be my greatest honor to do so. And we can grow together.

God knows I’m nowhere close to perfect. Don’t base your Christianity on Christians. Base it on Christ. I’m not your standard – He is. Without Him, we are lost eternally.

So, call, email, or message me!