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Hills

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

There is an old saying which is often used to stress a point:

Now that is a hill I will die on.

The negative of that is “That is not a hill I want to die on.”

Point being: what is stated is so important or not so important that I want to spend my time defending it or not defending it. Another way to put it is to consider its importance and whether you want to take a stand for it.

My next sermon series is called HILLS because there are certain TRUTHS I will take a stand for.  In 2003, Philip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California was awarded the “Daniel of the Year” award for his efforts to dismantle the Darwinist empire that dominates culture. In 1991 he sparked an enormous controversy by publishing a book called Darwin on Trial. In the years following that book, his attacks on Darwinism continued. Why?

The fundamental question is whether God is real or imaginary. The underlying thinking of Darwinism is the assumption that God is out of the picture.

My first HILL is entitled “In the Beginning.” My purpose is not to debate the existence or non-existence of God, but to begin with the first 4 words in the Bible: “In the beginning God.”  One of our Core Beliefs is found here. I’ll spend the morning looking at two main thoughts found in Romans 11: 33-36:

  • Five Foundational Truths
  • Three Unequaled Qualities

If you care to listen, the podcast will be on the church’s website. Meanwhile, I’d appreciate you praying for me and the church. And pray for the folks affected by both hurricanes.

Milestones

Friday, September 1st, 2017

We all like milestones in our lives. We all have them. They “mark” us.

I am relishing several of them right now.

Milestone #1: I went for a 10 mile bike ride yesterday. First one in about two months. It has been almost 6 weeks since my back surgery. I quit a few weeks before that because it simply hurt too much. I hit one bump too many which convinced me that getting off and staying off the bike for awhile was the best thing. So even though 10 miles doesn’t seem like a lot…my legs tell me differently. 🙂

Milestone #2: I looked before I started this post. I have hit the 2600 mark of blogs published. My first one was 2/20/08. Little did I realize I would be at it this long. I have seen so many come and go. I’m glad for each and everyone who “graced” my comments page with their response.

Milestone #3: I preach my last sermon in the current series on Grace this Sunday. I started the series on June 25th and with the exception of one week (last week) preached a sermon on Grace. We talked about anger, grace, bitterness, grace, forgiveness, grace, pain, grace, and a whole host of other topics, all with the focus on grace. This week I close the series with a sermon from Romans 8: 26-39 and John 11 entitled God is Still Good. We have all had those crushing times when we have wondered about God’s goodness. We’ve struggled with our faith. We’ve struggled with seeing the purpose behind what is happening. God’s Word gives us the truth that in spite of all that happens…and is happening…God is still good. Romans 8 reaffirms that. John 11 shows Jesus taking an ugly situation and making it good.

Given the current Harvey situation in Houston it is hard to understand. It is hard to see. I have a friend who is dying of cancer and will probably pass any day. I have someone else close who has been diagnosed with cancer.  As a pastor, I see heartbreaking events almost every day. Sometimes I honestly don’t know how to answer the questions which come. But I have to lean on the promise given in the two Scriptures I sighted.

Prayers are appreciated for this weekend. And, of course, pray for all those affected by Harvey.

Broken

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Several years ago I read a book by Ed Underwood called When God Breaks Your Heart. Ed had a severe case of leukemia which manifested itself in skin pealing from his body in scratch-defying itching, a bloated body and countless other problems. In one chapter entitled Snake Oil (aptly titled due to the subject matter) he included several quotes. One was “Christians tell me they don’t know what to say, and then they open their mouths to prove it.” Another was “Hurting people are petty people.”

There comes a time in everyone’s life when strength is gone. We find ourselves on the last bit of will or desire to do much of anything, even living. Life falls apart and sometimes we just don’t know what do, where to turn.

I like what the late A.W.Tozer, a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor once wrote:

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

My sermon this Sunday is titled “More Power to Ya” and my original plan was to show this video. While driving to Ohio this past Monday, I heard this song on my Spotify. I’m using it instead.  Prayers would be appreciated.

I made over a four hour trip yesterday (Wednesday) to visit with a couple I married back in 2000. I received word that Mike had cancer all through his body. He has asked me to perform his memorial service so I went to visit but also to talk about that service. I’d like to ask you to pray for Mike and Sheila. The pain for him will become excruciating and the loss will be numbing for her. Thanks.

Bellyaching

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

This is not a post about waking up in the middle of the night with your belly aching.

I’m not sure how common it was in your neck of the woods but in the part of Pennsylvania I grew up in (near Pittsburgh), it was common to hear someone say, “Oh quit your bellyaching!” I’m sure you are smart enough to know they were telling the person to quit complaining and griping.

Seems to me that particular vice comes easily too easily to some people. When it is all sifted and sorted through, bellyaching is nothing more than a snarky attitude about life. It isn’t a new problem either. The people of Israel had a handle fully on that plow. You can see it Numbers 11 and Deuteronomy 1: 19-36. The latter is a pretty well known story of how the Israelites had a chance to move into the Promised Land but allowed the complaining and griping to drown out the reassurance of Joshua and Caleb that they could take that land.

Complaining has no boundaries or class of people it is limited to. Rich and poor. White or black (or any color). Believer or non-believer. You name it; you will find complaining.

Sunday’s sermon continues the series on Grace as I look at this very common trait among people who have been shown grace. Your prayers would be appreciated. By the way: are you a bellyacher? A complainer? Oh yeah…and for your listening pleasure I am showing this video to start the sermon. It’s called a Throwback. Enjoy!!

Revenge??

Friday, August 4th, 2017

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Don’t Get Mad. Get Even?????

Filled with question marks for a reason.

You may have heard the story of the man who was bit by a dog which was later found to be rabid. The man had contracted rabies and this was a time when nothing much could be done after rabies had set in. The doctor told him everything possible would be done to make him comfortable, but his advice was for the man to get his affairs in order as soon as possible.

The dying man sank back in depression and shock, but finally rallied enough strength for a pen and paper. He began writing furiously.

About an hour later the doctor returned and the man’s pen was still flowing. The doctor said, “I’m glad to see you are taking my advice. Are you working on your will?”

“This ain’t no will, Doc,” the man said. “It’s a list of people I plan on bitin’ before I die.”

We may chuckle at that somewhat fanciful illustration, but I suspect there is something in all of us that can probably relate to that story.  Did you know there is a website called “ThePayBack.com” where it boasts about helping you get revenge? Seriously.

But here is the $1 million question: is that really the answer? Really? No matter how much or in what way we have been hurt. I am of the opinion the answer is no. Never has been and never will be. “Don’t get mad. Get even” is a lousy philosophy.

In the OT we have a living, breathing example of vengeance withheld, actually averted when everything justified it (at least in the perpetrator’s mind). Check out I Samuel 25 for the story.  Prayers for this weekend would be much appreciated. Thanks ahead of time.

Goodbye!

Friday, July 28th, 2017

When we are born two things happen: One, we start to die. Two, we start to grow. Seems incongruous, I know, but it is true. It is the latter I want to take a look at.

Growing up is part of life. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I heard, “Oh…grow up!” or the number of times I have used that same phrase. In Ephesians 4: 15-16,26-32 Paul tells us to grow up and as he does he tells us to get rid of certain things. What gives?  So that we will no longer be infants we need to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, clamor and slander (to name a few). The subtraction method allows for the addition to take place. As we say goodbye, we can add to make our lives more productive.

Forgiveness is a huge part of moving on. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Is.43:18-19)  It is the enemy’s plan to use your hurts to hold you back. He wants to put boundaries on your life based on your fear of getting hurt again. Total freedom means not allowing past hurts to direct our lives, tarnish our relationships and shape our personalities.

My sermon Sunday will be a real test. Physically of my ability to bounce back from surgery. Spiritually of our ability to overcome the ugliness of unforgiveness. Prayers would be appreciated on both fronts this weekend. Thanks..

Two-wayStreet

Friday, July 21st, 2017

One is hard-pressed these days to listen to the news. If you do, hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear about someone shooting up a place because of mistreatment or hidden anger/resentment.  Often you might hear how “highly respectable” or “a member of the local church” someone is only to hear they went on a shooting spree and took countless lives,  then often turning the gun on themselves.  Just recently you might remember reading about a man who went to a softball practice of one of the political parties and had a shooting spree.

Ephesians 4:31 tells us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” Sounds simple enough, but as we all know, life isn’t that easy.

One of the hardest things to do is to receive grace and then to turn around and give it. There is a story Jesus told in Matthew 18 of that principle. A man was forgiven of a humongous debt, one which he could never repay. But then he went out and demanded payment from a fellow slave who owed him pennies. When he couldn’t pay him at that instant, he threw him in jail. (BTW: how does that work anyway? “I’m going to throw you in jail until you pay me what you owe.”).

Grace received…grace given. A two-way street. If I may borrow a statement from Kyle Idleman’s book Grace is Greater:

Stop thinking about what’s been done to you, and start thinking about what’s been done for you.

LetItGo!

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

My apologies if the title of this post got you singing that nauseous song from a Disney animated move of a couple years ago. I know I will have a gag reflex if I hear it just one. more. time.

My title for Sunday’s message is “Let It Go!” but it certainly has nothing to do with a Disney movie. It does, however, have everything to do with finding freedom from shame and regret.

So what is the difference between shame and guilt?

We feel guilty for what we do.

We feel shame for what we are.

In other words, a person feels guilty because he did something wrong. A person feels shame because he is something wrong. The shame equation is this: one wrong act = one bad person.

The tragedy is we never know in which direction shame will push a person. John Wilkes Booth believed in slavery, but he did not lift a finger to save it. The South had lost the war it fought to save slavery, and he had been too much of a coward to do anything for the cause. His cowardice shamed him. “I despise myself,” he said and went out looking for a way to escape his shame. You know the rest of that story.

Even biblical stories abound. One man flatly denied Jesus; one flatly betrayed Him. Both regretted what they did. Judas regretted it and then went out and hung himself. Peter regretted it but then repented and found forgiveness and healing.

There you have it. Some of my thoughts for Sunday…those which form the basic premise for the message. Oh, I am using Psalm 51:1-2,7-12 as my go to Scripture. Thanks for praying for me.

Need

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Grace…who needs it?

Truth:  it becomes easy at times to say, “That’s not for me. After all, I stack up pretty well against the majority.” Ironically, that is a pretty good indicator it is needed! 🙂  In fact, it is not uncommon to have similar ideas as the woman at the well.

It is also not uncommon for us to look around and feel real good that our “sin is not as bad as that person’s.” It is also easy to become judgmental and opinionated about sin. But there is a verse which tracks well: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” Heb.12:15  Ooooh yeah…now I remember. I remember how caustic I was. I remember how standoffish I was. I remember how I looked at people with a sideways glance and a raised eyebrow. All the while feeling pretty good about myself.  But listen to these words from Kyle Idleman’s book Grace is Greater.

When we miss grace things become toxic. Religion without grace is poisonous. A relationship without grace is poisonous. A church without grace is poisonous. A heart without grace is poisonous.

Then he really hits hard:

When we miss grace, the poison of bitterness and anger will eventually become too much to keep buried. The poison of guilt and shame will eventually destroy your soul.

The truth is we all need grace. And I don’t mean grace for salvation. I mean grace for living. One last quote:

God’s grace is compelling when explained but irresistible when experienced.

My sermon Sunday will focus on this subject. I’d appreciate your prayers for me and the folks who listen.

Freedom!

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

One of the best scenes of Braveheart is when Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace, is having the life ooze out of him and just before he dies he yells, “Freedom!”

Freedom is something we all want. Next week we will be celebrating our country’s Independence Day. Many in the throes of prison or an addiction will cry out for freedom. But what about those chained to a system or a mindset who will cry out for freedom? Will they find it?

I read this recently:

“Other than the name of Jesus, it may be the most important word in all the Bible: GRACE. Grace in the person and work-the life, death and resurrection-of Jesus is what made the difference. If you’re God’s child, stop hiding behind your tree of shame.”  (Tripp-New Morning Mercies-June 29).

This Sunday I’m preaching on Freedom!  I’ll be using John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) and I Cor. 7: 21-13. My focus? Grace frees; the law enslaves. Living in grace is radically exciting; living in law is morbidly exhausting. The follower of Christ can live in freedom-freedom from law, from rules, regulations, and other life-killing bacteria. The purpose of grace is to give freedom.

I’d appreciate your prayers. Meanwhile, have a Happy 4th!!