#Sovereignty#Timing

Written by cycleguy on August 14th, 2020

I heard a great statement the other day that I will be using in this week’s sermon. 

The silence of God does not equate the absence of God.

That really struck home to me as I thought about the sermon. We are afforded very little information about the future. Unless you are talking about the book of Revelation and even that is clouded in mystery. In our personal lives, we really aren’t given any either. No crystal ball, Ouija board, seance, or Tarot card will tell us what is in our future.

But we all would like, I think, to know something about our future.  Who of us would not like to know what stocks to buy when a company first went public? Who of us would not like to have known not to have taken that route home after work?

But when you think about it there are more important things we would like to know and not given an inkling about. I can think of a couple in the Bible.

  • Joseph. Remember him? After a life of uncertainty he is elevated to second in Pharaoh’s government. When his father died, his brothers thought, “Oh no. He is going to come back on us.” But Joseph’s words to them stand for us as well: “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”
  • Esther. Remember Mordecai’s words to her? When she was wavering on approaching the king, Mordecai told her “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There are more, but those two and Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 will be my focus this week. They are clearly evidence of God’s sovereignty and timing in action. I most certainly would appreciate your prayers this week. Along with preaching, Jo and I will be taking Braden back to Ohio on Saturday. An 8 hour round trip in one day…the day before I preach. That sure beats Jo doing it all on one day by herself (Sunday). So prayers for safe travel and then physical alertness would be much appreciated. Ahead of time: thanks.

 

#Legalism#Freedom

Written by cycleguy on August 13th, 2020

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”

 

#Relax#PermissionTo#Refresh

Written by cycleguy on August 9th, 2020

If there has been one thing this whole virus fiasco should have done is given us permission to take it easy. I know…that is hard when someone is uptight and scared. But then again, maybe that is exactly what was needed to relieve anxiety.

I have a book in my office I read years ago by the late Tim Hansel. It is called When I Relax I Feel Guilty.  I thought that was a rather unique title. Sadly, it is also true. We have this crazy mentality that the busier I am the better it looks. But I think the old saying is true: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” One of the statements Tim makes in his book is the word leisure comes the Latin word which means “to be permitted.”  He then says, “More today than ever, we need to learn how to give ourselves permission to relax, to play, to enjoy life, and to enjoy God for who He is.” (p.30)

And because we can’t relax, we find ourselves wound up tighter than a drum.  We have to somehow give ourselves permission to enjoy moments/hours/days of leisure.  I read enough blogs and listen to several podcasts to know that pastors/youth pastors, etc across the spectrum have found themselves burning out due to the failure to take some leisure time and not feel guilty doing so. Especially during this pandemic.  I’m going to be honest. I tend to be high energy.  I get up at 3:30 and most often my feet don’t go horizontal until 9:30 at night (unless I am happen to be sitting in my recliner).  🙂  But during this pandemic I made sure I found time to do leisure. Now…my leisure was not doing cross-stitch or redoing antique furniture or making a boat in my basement. (NCIS anyone?) My leisure was physical in nature because my relaxation is riding my bike.  Going to the Y was out for obvious reasons so I made sure whenever possible I took a 15-25 mile spin on my bike. Some will say, “But that is not relaxing!” For me it is. I breathe fresh air. I can feel the wind at my face. I can sweat. And I can clear my mind.

We have just got to stop letting work become our identity. That is what gets us into the mess to start with.  Work= identity. More work = recognition added to my identity.  Been there done that.  I find it interesting that Jesus often withdrew to be by Himself to be with His Father. Luke 5 tells us it was to pray.  Hey, the way I look at it, if it was good enough for Jesus to withdraw and relax then who am I to argue?

Take some time away. Relax.  Enjoy yourself.  Someone has said, “If you don’t come apart, you will soon come apart.”  There you go. Think about that the next time you want to cover yourself with a load of “To Do” stuff.

 

#Grace#HassledHeart

Written by cycleguy on August 7th, 2020

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture before-maybe countless times-and not really read it?  You know…sort of mindless reading. Honestly, I have found myself doing that when reading parts of the OT.  I have in the past read through the Bible in a year several times. But I “cheated” when reading some of the more tedious passages-like Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy and some of the Prophets. Ezekiel was one of them. But one day I woke up as I was reading Ezekiel 34: 11-16. I was blown away and stunned by its beauty, power and all-encompassing picture of grace.  That grace is seen in so many ways, but I think it is especially seen in the one subject I think may plague more Christ-followers than anything else.

What topic is that? It is the one I’m going to be dealing with Sunday.

FORGIVENESS

That just might be the one subject Christ-followers are more fragile on than any other.  When you think about it, forgiveness actually has two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.  Forgiveness starts with vertical-our relationship with God. Then it moves to horizontal-our relationship with others.  So many try to get the latter right before the former is in place. We get it all wrong.

To show you the emptiness of the latter without the former taking place I want to tell you what happened to me the other day. I was in Circle K (a gas station/convenience store) and the cashier made a comment to me and really to all who were around. As I stepped up to pay she said, “There are 3 things that keep me going-caffeine, tobacco and resentment.” I said to her, “The latter two will kill you.” She repeated it to me like it was a badge of honor. So I did likewise-I repeated my warning.  I felt sad for her and wished she had a wise friend who could help her. 

My sermon Sunday is entitled Grace for the Hassled Heart.  You already know the Scripture and the focus. Now I’d like to ask you to pray for me and for us.  Thanks.

 

#Beirut#PrayerRequested

Written by cycleguy on August 6th, 2020

It is easy to get so myopic that we can’t “see the forest for the trees.”  There is no question our country is in an upheaval (and I certainly have my thoughts about it and when it will end), much of it total garbage. The wanton destruction and taking of lives, especially Law Enforcement, is not the way to get things done.  There is absolutely no call for what is going on in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York and others. It is utterly ridiculous. And please don’t tell me it is advancing the cause of BLM (which I won’t get into).

Then there is Beirut. Half way around the globe and barely a peep from those who want us to think they really care about others.  I have watched several clips of the explosion and am just dumbfounded at the power of it. Jo showed me a video of a bride in her wedding dress blown off her feet while having pictures taken.  And to see the pictures of destruction is just mind-blowing.

To be honest, I had no plans to post anything about the explosion.  Sadly, and admittedly, it was not on my radar. I stand guilty of caring but not caring. Until…UNTIL…I read this article. I have linked it so you can read it in its entirety. It is from a pastor in Lebanon who went there to plant a church. It should rock your world and stir your heart to do one thing he has asked:

P.R.A.Y.

Here is the link to the article.

How about doing two things for me…for this pastor and his people in Lebanon? First, pray for them. Second, pass this article along to your readers.

 

#ConversionStory#KeepitReal

Written by cycleguy on August 4th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading the three accounts of the conversion of Saul/Paul- Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26.  Paul is efficient in each of them. Consistent in each of them. In other words, he doesn’t embellish, add to or take away a particular thought or action to make a stronger point to his audience. He doesn’t heighten emotion to make a stronger point to his audience. He says nothing more to Agrippa in chapter 26 than he does in his defense before the people in chapter 22.

Some people like to do just the opposite. In an effort to be relevant (whatever that may mean) or to present a more enthralling conversion experience, they embellish their story. I’ve read and heard some whoppers in my days. Mine is simple: I was 8 years old; fell under conviction that is what I must do; went forward on Palm Sunday; and was baptized (with others) on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960. No big sin. I wasn’t a drug user, a pill-popper, a rebel (except as a sinner against God), a murderer, a rabble-rouser, or an obstinate, extremely disobedient child. I was simply a young boy who realized he was a sinner and wanted to accept Jesus. (I also confess I wanted to take communion but that’s a whole ‘nother story).  🙂  No confetti. No big brass band. No one lining up to hear my stirring story. The only sound heard was angels singing, rejoicing, as Luke 15 says.

Every man’s experience is different. No conversion stories are the same. I did not have a “Damascus Road” experience, but that makes mine no less important or special than someone who is radically saved and tells others. Here is what I think: You tell your story. Tell it truthfully. Who knows who may be listening?


 

#Satisfaction#Emptiness

Written by cycleguy on July 31st, 2020

The late Swiss psychiatrist and author, Dr. Paul Tournier once wrote:

It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood.

I certainly can’t argue with that. Recent circumstances in our world of unrest should help us to see this is true. While there are bad eggs in all things, the underlying factor in many arguments or conflicts are founded in the simple desire to be heard. Sadly, rational conversation and dialogue goes by the board when ears get stopped up with anger, prejudice, unreasonable actions, and other sicknesses.

Many people are walking through life like zombies. I, for one, do not for one minute believe zombies are real, but the picture of people walking like they are in a fog or controlled by a foreign entity is real. They are empty and searching and looking for something, but tragically have no clue where to look.

My example in this week’s sermon is the woman at the well in John 4. Lost, confused, empty, shallow, and looking all over for answers, she finds her answers the only place possible. It is not a thing or an event. It is a Person, Jesus.  He promised her satisfaction for her empty soul. What also shines in this story is Jesus shows us how we should reach out to people.

Satisfaction for an Empty Soul is my title. John 4 is my Scripture. I will be making a very clear presentation of the need for salvation.  I have no clue who will be listening so I am praying there will be someone listening to realizes their emptiness and need for Jesus. So with that in mind I’d appreciate your prayers for two things: One, open hearts to hear and respond; and two, for me as I preach. I want to speak clearly and passionately.

 

#DancingPrince#BookReview

Written by cycleguy on July 29th, 2020

Where do I start? My mind is full. So full I am having trouble putting words to my fingers. How does a person respond when he is sad a series has ended? I felt that way after watching Back to the Future 3 (which meant the end of the Back to the Future trilogy) or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That is how I felt when I closed the book on Dancing Prince, the final book in a 5 book series by my blogging friend, Glynn Young. 

The series started with Dancing Priest,  where aspiring Olympic cyclist Michael Kent was introduced.  But as you find out he was more than a cyclist, much more. A devastating wreck in the cycling event changed Michael’s life forever. He was eventually to move to the states where he met up again with Sarah, his love in England, but one he had wiped off his map.  Through the next 3 novels- A Light Shining, Dancing King, and Dancing Prophet-  Glynn moves Michael and Sarah into new challenges until he finally becomes the King of England and she the Queen.

I’m going to let fellow blogger, Martha Orlando, take it from here. She did a masterful job of reviewing Dancing Prince, and like her I am hesitant to say much more lest I give the book away.  Please take a few moments to read her review. 

What I want to say deals more with my personal emotions. I found myself twisting and turning with each turn of the plot. Unexpected twists. Unprepared-for turns. I simply had trouble putting the book down. If it hadn’t been for Glynn I might have gotten more stuff done at home. I might have decided to cut the grass instead of saying, “It’s too hot to do much of anything.” And doggone it if he didn’t make it hard to put the book down and go to bed! And I agree with Martha: make sure you have some kleenex handy.   I was thoroughly captivated by this story-by all 5 books in the series to be honest. I can see me picking them up again and rereading them (I’ve already read the earlier 2 at least twice trying to prepare for the next one).  I have already passed Dancing Priest on to a fellow reader and I suspect she will want to read the rest. 

I highly recommend you start with the first and then read the rest in order.  And Glynn: thanks for a much-loved series of books. I don’t know how I could recommend a series more highly than this one. By the way: you can read more about the series at Glynn’s website.  You can also order them through Amazon.  You can read more of Glynn’s writing at his blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends.

 

#NoPlaceToHide#Book Review

Written by cycleguy on July 28th, 2020

After reading I’ve Seen the End of You by surgeon Lee Warren, it was a no-brainer that I would read his first book, No Place to Hide.  I have to admit that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew about it was he was a surgeon in Iraq and had to deal with some PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome).  PTSD is very common in combat soldiers and it manifests itself in multiple ways. It is also found in accident victims-accidents of many different kinds. I was particularly interested because there are several men in the church I pastor who were in either Desert Storm or Iraq and suffer from PTSD, from mild to severe. A friend of mine has it due to watching his best friend die almost literally in his arms after a horrible accident involving a 90+ year old man ramming his car into several cyclists while on an MS ride.  (And he got off almost scot-free due to $$$$).

Here is my review of No Place to Hide:

I have never been in armed conflict. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War but was in Bible college so I was exempt. BTW: that was not why I went to Bible college. I was virtually illiterate about the news and Vietnam. I think my parents knew I would have been toast if I had signed up for the military because I could not find a job after my Freshman year in college and my uncle (un-brave soul that he was) took me to a recruiting station. My mom was contacted by the recruiter and she discouraged it.  Anyway, I have only read or listened to the horrors of that conflict as well as Desert Storm and the Iraqi invasion. To say my eyes were opened would be an understatement.  Lee was a brain surgeon with a successful practice but he received his papers to go to Balad Air Base for four months.  I will spare you the gory details but to say his time at Balad was a vacation would do him a great injustice. It would do all those who served in any capacity a great injustice.

While at Balad he was required to treat our military personnel, but also innocent Iraqi citizens, and our enemies, terrorist bombers included. The descriptions of what some of our personnel went through were enough to give me nightmares if I had allowed it. Innocent citizens punished for making a living by becoming translators or voting was enough to make my blood boil.  And to make it worse was for all medical personnel giving their best to save the suicide bombers and others responsible for much of the bloodshed on their own people was almost more than I could stand.  I just can’t understand that kind of hate, especially that which was done in the name of a “peaceful religion and God (Allah).”

I had to wait until close to the final 40 or so pages before Lee was discharged to read about the PTSD. While in Iraq his marriage fell apart (it was already heading there before deployment), and he came home broken and bruised, but missed greatly by his children.  It was after all of that and his marriage to Lisa that his PTSD hit him hard. I’m not going to go into detail about it. There is no need to. I’d just say, “Read the book.”

But I will tell you this: if you did not respect our men and women of the military before, you will after reading this book. It does not matter if they were in combat or a doctor in a field hospital, they went through horrendous conditions that I cannot fathom. Plan to be challenged. Plan to have your eyes opened. Plan to find respect for our military personnel. Plan to have tissues  handy. But also plan to see Dr. Warren give praise to God for bringing him out alive and able to minister as a top brain surgeon.

 

#Forgiveness#Friends#BackUp

Written by cycleguy on July 26th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I have also posted this on my “Shadow” blog. Did you know I had another blog? It is a devotional blog I write in every day. I’d like to invite you to check it out here.