Lord of the Whip


I could write a book on troubled waters. Those of you old enough to have attended a wedding in the 70’s or even the early 80’s will remember that well-worn out song from Simon and Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. This song brought comfort and romance to many a wedding. As couples got hitched to a complete stranger, not knowing what the future would hold and how difficult it is to just be around the same person every day for the rest of your life, this somehow helped set the mode.  Troubled waters are hard enough to handle on your own, let along dragging another person around with you the whole time.Love is grand!    

Recent world events are troubling. As I write this text, the world has shut down, toilet paper is in high demand, people are huddling at home as we look for a way out of this COVID condition. I am sure we can figure it out. The world demands it and science and technology will lead all of us out of this mysterious happening.    

As people, we all look for reasons why COVID-19 is here. Maybe “why” is the wrong thing to ask as the world panics.Some look to God and say WHAT do you want from me?  Maybe that’s the wrong thing to ask God, God does not need anything from us. Some people are nihilist and see no meaning.What do think? I believe it’s simple. Everyone is created in the image of God and we have this built-in mechanism to be perfect. This leads to wanting to be in control, and when we are not in control, well, you need lots of toilet paper.  

The world is a beautiful place and it can be nasty. It’s full of wonderful people who at times are curious about God. God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who created the world and you and me, wants everyone to know Jesus. Jesus, the most influential person ever! Period. Any intelligent person should know this Jesus.  It makes sense to know, to understand this person Jesus, who changed all the cultures of the world. COVID opens the door for God to peer into the lives of those who know him as well as those who don’t.

Jesus can bring the wine and the whip in the same breath. One month ago, we were happy and fat. Now? Lots of people are looking for answers. Everyday life has a new normal. You could be a bridge over troubled waters. Are you ready in season and out of season to tell someone about Jesus when the opportunity comes?

Here’s a little corner of my troubled waters. I was fortunate enough to be enlightened (thanks to Keller) that,in the end, the Whip and the Wine are the same, if I have faith.    

For over 30 years my wife Charlotte has owned and operated a cleaning service. I regularly go and clean some commercial accounts for Char. I drive to the account, prep my cleaning cart,stock my supplies and try hard not waste any time with movement. Char demands efficiency which allows me to challenge myself each time I go. Can I do the work smarter than the previous time (probably not), can I cut off some time and still meet the standards of Char.

At these accounts I am by myself and I usually take my ear pods and listen to music. I will listen to the songs that I will be playing Sunday on the Planning Center app on my phone. Or,I will click to Spotify on my phone and explore other people’s song lists.  Funk music is my favorite music category to explore, which makes sense, I am a bass player. Good times while I work. A couple of months ago, though, I started forming a new habit while on the job for Char and the timing of that was awesome and perfect during my “Jesus Lord of the Wine” period before.

Instead of listening to James Brown, Dazz Band or The Bar-Kays, I downloaded a podcast app and started listening to Tim Keller. Now, I usually go directly to the source for my time with God. I love exploring His Word. I'll dig into a book of the Bible, read it over and over, explore the redundancies, look for a theme, then read some commentaries to check myself,(got to make sure I am not going off the deep in my interpretation).  While listening to Keller, I started looking back in front to me to see if the past has anything to say. I’m so glad I went from Earth Wind and Fire to Tim Keller. It was one of those times where God allows the acquisition of perspective about an experience or event from the past.     

This listening to Tim Keller habit started with his series on Lent on March 13 and 16 episodes 380 and 381, the teacher taught on Jesus’ first miracle,” Changing the Water to Wine" and followed up with"Jesus Trashing the Temple". The dichotomy of these stories had an impact on me. I listened to these podcasts’ multiple times. I was opened up to how Jesus could be the world’s best party wine maker at a 3-day wedding event and next be a world class party popper at the Temple. 

The podcast drew out the point that Jesus can bring the Wine and the Whip, but the results are the same for each. Jesus was showing us how he gives and takes away. And that the enduring lesson is that Jesus will use every situation to show us that He is a deserving King and great Lord and that the only proper approach to a life with Jesus is, Him as the center of everything, always and in all situations. As the most influential figure ever known, by anyone. The teaching is this: Jesus brings the wine, with all the fun and celebration that goes with good times in our lives. But Jesus also will bring the whip, with all the chaos and turning of our life upside down. Funny thing about these two stories. Jesus in the stories gets no credit for the best wine ever. But he sure gets the bad bump at the Temple. Go listen to the podcast. I can’t do Tim Keller any justice here in this text.  

Shift gears. At the end of last year and the beginning of 2020 I was spending time with God. I was praying and asking God to bless the ministry in 2020. I found myself being hopeful about TIME in that we were having a good year and a good budget year 2020. American churches, schools and colleges were signing up to connect with churches in Haiti, DR. Mexico and Cuba. All these organizations were answering the call of the great commission,To Go.  Budgets were set and balanced. I was excited! Little did I know I was thinking too highly of myself at this point.

So, I went about my business and in late February I traveled to Haiti to explore a possible partnership with some wonderful Haitians. These Haitians have been meeting in a 250 square foot house,were worshiping outside in the elements, all they wanted was shelter. There is no building, no shelter, but lots of hope; hope that TIME would come and be a blessing; hope that a longtime American church partner of TIME from New Hampshire who was traveling with us would commit to pay for and help build a small double chapel. These partnerships were a long time coming. Lots of prayers went into this project and it looked promising. We established contact with the local Haitian government officials. We priced out the cost of the materials. The local Haitians wanted to help in the construction, we even found a beach front Motel to house and feed the group.  It was a go! Until…

I was tired from my trip to Haiti. Long bus rides.I was crammed into the back of a Range Rover during our exploration in Haiti and the roads in Haiti, WOW! After 6 years of praying for Haiti it looked as though God was up to something. I got my flight back to the US March 4th.  When I returned from Haiti to the States, I flew back through Atlanta from Santo Domingo, then to Orlando for TIME's annual board meeting. Haiti was on the top of my list. I shared my enthusiasm and the details with the Board. They became excited too. Finally, a long-term approach to the people of Haiti.  An established local church in Haiti with pastors who have a vision for church planting. Until…   

I got back to Des Moines Iowa on March 7th.I could feel the tension in the air in the airports but saw no masks or anything that would lead me to hear what I was seeing on TV. All the sudden The Whip! I went from the Wine to the Whip in days. From order to chaos. Summer groups began to call. We don’t know the entire story yet.

It’s funny how Jesus gives and takes away. I trust in Jesus for everything, rely on Him for everything,give credit to Jesus in all things. I'm not saying Jesus is responsible for the virus or that the virus is His opportunity to teach the world a lesson. I just know, I can trust God with it all.  In fact, Jesus is stretching me and probably all of us to trust Him at this point. Do you trust me, Rick? Do you trust me with Haiti and TIME? Can I be Lord of the Whip? Will you trust the Whip? Or do you only want to follow me on your terms as Lord of the Wine. 

I don’t need to know why or the what about these troubled waters. 2020, that’s God’s business, I will not be carving an idol out of me needing to know the why or what’s. I just know that God owns it all and that the only hand to have toward God is an open hand. I love “The Lord of the Wine” and will trust “The Lord of the Whip”  

TIME finds itself in rough waters.  Groups are canceling, budgets are busted, and the office feels the crunch. TIME is a fee-based operation which means, when groups go the field, the office gets paid. We need your prayers.  

And oh yes, we estimate, and hope, that TIME will be open this summer. And Haiti awaits, and we will not forget.

Thanks Tim Keller.