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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.

Comfort

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Confession: if you haven’t already figured it out yet, I am sometimes an emotional writer. I sometimes write what is on my heart-filtered and unfiltered depending on subject matter.

This is one of those posts.  If you are looking for a “Smile. Be happy” post then I’m going to say you won’t find it. However, I do hope you will read to the end.

As many of you know, I have back surgery scheduled for this coming Monday. Until then, I have to live with occasional intense pain. I have given up riding my bike because it was no longer fun. It hurt too much whenever I hit a bump or missed seeing a small hole in the road. I woke up this morning and within 10 seconds made the decision not to go to the Y (where I do upper body work) because of the pain. Even putting on my shorts would have been a nightmare, let alone my shoes.

I was whining. I was crying. I was definitely feeling sorry for myself. Wallowing in self-pity. Then I read this from New Morning Mercies (NMM) by Paul David Tripp:

God puts me in hard moments when I cry out for His comfort so that my heart becomes tender to those near me who need the same comfort.

Strange that 20 minutes or so earlier I was whining and feeling sorry for myself. But Tripp wasn’t done.

The hard moments are not just for my growth in grace, but for my call to be a tool of that same grace in the life of another sufferer. In difficulty God is softening my heart and sharpening my edges so that I may be ready to make the comfort of the invisible Father visible in the life of the weary pilgrim He has placed in my pathway.”

The Scripture reference was 2 Corinthians 1: 3-6.  If you get a moment, take a peak at it.

So I need to change my attitude. Stop complaining about the pain. Stop crying and belly-aching and start trusting and seeing it as a ministry opportunity (now or future).  I’ll be honest. I’m not there yet. Least not at this moment.  I can only pray that time will come soon.

Thanks for listening. (And yes, I shared this with my small band of brothers who are working through NMM with me).

Reason

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Not reason as in intellectual “reasoning.”

But reason as in “why I do what I do” or “did what I did.”

This past Sunday I spoke about shame and its effect upon our lives and upon our thinking. I opened with the following illustration:

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 chance to escape his shame. The chance came when a British play called My American Cousin opened at Ford’s Theater, and it was rumored that the president would attend. Abraham Lincoln was a sacrifice to shame.

So professionals have been asking the question-then and now-are people ashamed because they do bad things, or do people do bad things because they are ashamed? Most students of shame point to monsters like Hitler, Saddam Hussein and others like them as examples. Most every monster was a disowned child-abuse or abandoned-or in some other cruel way made to feel unworthy and unwanted.

That is not justification for their inhumane acts, but it does give us some insight into them, and others like them.

And us. You and me. Seemingly normal (so we say) 🙂 people.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture which tends to think “I’m entitled to  (name it).” The whole entitlement mentality needs to stop-at home; at church; at sports; and play. Let it begin with me.

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.

Chew

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Chew on this some. Jo read it to me first and I asked her to email it to me. It is from Ann Voskamp:

I don’t have much to say or to add. I’d just like for you to chew on this for awhile. Then if you care, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.  And sorry I couldn’t edit out the header and junk at the bottom.

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!!

Sacred

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

I’m sorry if you get tired of hearing about this but something has been sitting in my lap for a few days.

Being a victim of a hit and run driver while riding my bicycle has been a tad bit unsettling. Very unsettling for Jo. A tad for me.

But here is what is bothering me. I have been speaking to others-cyclists and non-cyclists-who are appalled at what happened. “How could someone just do that?” “How could someone hit someone and not care?” In fact, just this morning at the Y (Wednesday), I was talking to a man who prefers mountain biking over road biking because he got buzzed on his last ride. His question: “How can anyone be so mean, so uncaring about another human life?”

That really is the crux of the matter, you know? How? How can someone do that to someone else? How can I get buzzed, throw my arms out in question, and get the “royal bird” flashed back at me? That tells me that he/she knew exactly what they were doing.

It comes down to this: Human life is no longer sacred. Human life no longer means much to people. We live in a throw-away society so life is the same. Can there be any other explanation for the pro-choice view of life? I’m going to borrow some words from Jared C. Wilson’s book Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes it Compelling:

 Human life isn’t sacred because we managed to be the experiment of nature that finally worked. Human life isn’t sacred because we are beneficial to each other or to society. Human life isn’t sacred when it is wanted or desired or loved. Human life is sacred because God created it in his own image. (p.78-79)

How can anyone read Psalm139:13-16 and not see that uniqueness, that sacredness? God has made us in His image; we are His image-bearers. That doesn’t mean because we are “useful,” but beautiful.

This post was in the germination stage but took root when I read this post by my blogging friend, Jay. Jay directed us to his daughter, Sarah’s blog, where she also included a homemade video.  Powerful stuff. Please take a moment to read both and watch the video.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Trials

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Like most people, I am not fond of trials. I’ve had my share of them recently and I can honestly say, I’m a little tired of them. I know…I know…mine are not nearly as bad as many. I try really hard to guard against feeling sorry for myself and wallowing in self-pity. Sometimes I feel like this back issue is kicking my you-know-what all over the place. The MRI showed a bulge and possibly 2 nerve impingements. I go to a neurosurgeon on Friday, the 30th, for a consultation. Amazing what a car at 60 mph can do! ‘Course I used to tell people I’m alive and walking.  2″ more and one of those might not be a reality.  Anyway…

I read this from New Morning Mercies last Saturday:

Through difficult relationships and circumstances, God works to expose your heart so you will seek the grace that can be found only in Him…The trials in our lives exist not because He has forgotten us, but because He remembers us and is changing us by His grace.

Admittedly, I’m glad He remembers me. 🙂 But honestly?  I sometimes wonder if He could show it another way. You know what I mean?  I don’t mean to sound disrespectful of God and the way He works. Just showing my humanness.  I won’t stop trusting Him, I won’t stop leaning on Him. I won’t stop relying on His grace. I’d just like my memories to be just a tad bit more on the lighter side.  🙂

Messiahs

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

There are two sides to this post.

Side one: those who have a “Messiah complex.”

Side two: those who put people on a pedestal which sets them up for a fall.

We all know about those with a “Messiah complex.” We usually associate that with a cult or some overbearing leader (usually religious) who thinks he/she is God’s gift to mankind. This person takes control and takes over peoples’ lives, pretending to care, but really seeking the opportunity to pounce. They had them in Jesus’ day. We have them today, most often found in legalistic churches, word-of-faith communities, and sadly, in the daily lives of many unaware people.

It is Side two which gives me greater concern. For some reason, we set people up as our “personal messiah.” What I mean by that is we put too much stock in one person; what they can/cannot do; how they can help us; meet our needs; answer our longings, etc. This can be seen in looking at another person as the one who can make us happy or fulfilled. The plain, rugged truth is only God can do that. If someone sets me on that type of pedestal, I am nothing more than a cheap “knock off.”  I was struck (I chuckled) by something from today’s New Morning Mercies: “Asking someone to be our personal messiah is “like requiring him to be the 4th member of the Trinity and then judging him when he fails.” {Note: substitute the female gender if you prefer}. It just can’t be. It can’t happen. No human can or should shoulder that responsibility. There is only one Savior and people “we aren’t Him.”

This is an important lesson to learn.  Bitterness and disappointment is the result of someone failing to meet our expectations. It is impossible for people to meet my needs. And it is impossible for someone to expect me to meet their needs. Not just impossible. Wrong. My focus, your focus, needs to be where it belongs…on Jesus.