Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Have I Learned Since High School?

Last night was my 30-year high school reunion. Wow - that is enough to make you feel real old! The planning committee asked me to share a brief message at the main event. I was extremely honored to be asked to do this; however, it was very much out of my comfort zone to do so. I was more uncomfortable doing this than any sermon I have preached. Therefore, much prayer went into it. I had two goals: to not be preaching and to keep it way under the 20 minutes they gave me. It was actually about 12 minutes and here is what I shared:

It is a great privilege to be here tonight and share a few thoughts with you.

I want to introduce my wife of 23 years, Dede …. we have 4 children and just moved back to GA after 18 years in the frigid state of WI. Someone put on Facebook yesterday that they wanted to put up Christmas decorations because it was getting cool – it is not cool in GA right now.

I don’t know about you, but isn’t it kind of weird to come to an event like this? I mean, it makes you feel old. I told some people this week I was coming to my 30 year high school reunion they said, “Dude, you are old!” Thanks a lot!

Here is what will make you feel old, do you know how much a gallon of gas costs in 1961? 31 cents; and a postage stamp? 4 cents

But as weird as it might be to come to a reunion like this, these kind of events are actually good for us, because they make us reflect on our lives and hopefully consider what is most important, so what I want to do tonight is share with you:

The 4 Most Important Things I Have Learned Since High School. This first is this:
1. Time Flies.

It seems like yesterday that Mike Bush had the big club hand and the spirit stick was being fought for!

You know the country song “Don’t blink”? We’ll; we blinked, and all of sudden we are nearing 50 years old, some of us have kids in college, and some are even grandparents. By the way, how many grandparents do we have?

Billy Graham was interviewed recently on CNN and they asked him what is one of the most important lessons you have learned, and he said, “The swift passage of time.”

Time flies. Life is so short.

I have a sobering habit of reading the obituaries and I am amazed how often I see people who are 18, 26, 40, or my age: 48. I read the obituaries to remind me of how short life is.

Even tonight we have remembered those from our class who have already died. None of us are guaranteed another day!

The 2nd thing I have learned is this:
2. Life can be painful.

As a pastor I come in contact with pain on a regular basis. I have done the funeral for small children, even infants, seen a good friend die at 40 from bone cancer; just this week one of my best friends’ divorce was final, and in about a month I will see my wife’s brother go back to Iraq for the 3rd time and he is scheduled to leave one week after his 2nd child is due.

Many of you here have probably been through or are going through some serious health issues, the death of someone close, divorce, cancer, depression, anxiety, or any other number of painful situations.

Well it was Jesus said, “in this world you will have much tribulation…” I like the way Jesus always tells the truth.

And those painful situations will either make us better or bitter, and I have sure seen both. I have seen people get bitter through pain and then try to cover it up with all kinds of things that end up being very harmful and sometimes addictive.

And I have also seen others get better through pain. And these are the ones who are amazing agents of help to others who are hurting. Mike Broom, you are one of those people. I cannot imagine the pain you had in losing Beth.

The 3rd thing I have learned is:
3. Success is not determined by what you have.

Our culture often tells us you measure success by the title you have, your position in the company, or the toys you own.

It’s like the person who said he spent his whole life climbing up the ladder, only to realize at the end it was leaning against the wrong wall.

The problem with living for material things is that you can’t buy happiness and it is all so temporary, it can be gone in a moment, and ultimately when you die, you can’t take it with you. I have never been to a funeral where a U-Haul followed the Hearst.

The family of John D. Rockefeller was asked when he died, “How much did he leave?” And they said, “All of it.”

The 4th thing I have learned and this one is by far the most important and makes a huge difference in the other 3, and that is this:
4. God is real and He wants us to know Him.

Some of you might be thinking, “Now don’t get religious on me.” Trust me, this is not religion, but rather a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and there is a huge difference.

I have had the privilege to traveling to the Holy Land twice and to Greece where so many biblical events occurred, and it is incredible to see firsthand the accuracy of the bible and tangible proof for the historicity of Jesus.

I did not become a Christian until our senior year at Clarkston, largely due to the influence of a Bible Study held in the home of Rene Walker Harris. Thanks Rene. And I can tell you Jesus Christ has made such a difference in my life – to give me purpose and joy.

So as I wrap it up, I want to go back to the first three lessons and show how God can be real in each of those:

1. I mentioned that Time flies and our lives are so short here on earth,
But when you are a follower of Christ, He promises you eternal life and your life here on earth can be lived with an eternal perspective, so that whether you live to be 14, 48 or 90 your life can make a difference for all eternity.

I love that scene in the movie the Dead Poets’ Society where Robin Williams takes the students to the trophy case and shows them the picture of past athletes and heroes, and he says, “Look in their eyes; think back to what it must have been like for them – so young with the world before them, but now their bodies are being eaten by worms.” And then he gave hem this challenge: “carpe diem. Seize the day.”

And our lives are so short that we must seize the day, and live for what really matters – God matters the most.

2. Life can be painful but God wants to be there in the midst of our pain to help us through it.

We never know what life may throw us, which is why we need One who is bigger than life.

It is often through pain that we can experience God the most. C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain…. Pain is God’s megaphone.”

The Bible says, “Caste all your care on Him, for He cares for you.”

God wants you to get closer to Him through your pain and then be able to help others in their pain.

Earlier I quoted Jesus when He said, “In this world you will have tribulation” and the second part of that verse is, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

3. Success is not about what you have but rather it’s about who you know.

It’s all about relationships – with God and others. That’s what matters the most, and not how big our house is or the car we drive.

This is why Jesus said the 2 greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

I love that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey opens the book the angel left him and written inside was this message: “He is not poor who has friends.”

That is why events like this are so good, because they help us deepen relationships.

Not to be morbid, but who will come to your funeral and what will they say? Will they have to lie or will there be a long line to get to the microphone and talk about how your life impacted them and made a difference?

Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

I don’t want any of you to forfeit your soul!!!! So I want to end with some really good news; our world is filled with bad news, but here is the best news ever given to human beings:

Jn. 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever trusts in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Jer. 29: 11-13 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope, and you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

I pray that God will reveal Himself to each one of you! Thank you!