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Progression?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

I’ve been using Whiter Than Snow by Paul David Tripp during my morning Quiet Time in addition to my Bible reading and New Morning Mercies. I read one devotion per week, rereading it each day, looking for something new to ponder.

This week’s is entitled “Sinners and Unafraid.”  I’m not exactly sure why that title but it is the first line that I read which gave me the thought for this post.

The older you get the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. (p.53)

Hmmmm. What exactly does that mean? Maybe this will help. “When you’re young, you’re excitedly launching to worlds unknown…But as you get older, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward.” (p.53)

That makes sense to me. Like most ventures, the life of being a follower of Jesus is initially something exciting. Like putting on clothes just purchased, or a new car with that “smell,” or finding ourselves heading out for a first-time foray, there is something exciting which happens inside us. We are like an astronaut seeing things for the first time.

But then life hits. We get older and life is no longer like a box of chocolates. (I wish). As life hits, we begin digging into our past, sometimes looking for that missing piece of puzzle. That one thing which will help explain why we are as we are. Why we react the way we do. Why we are making the choices and decisions we are making. Why does this make me happy or sad?

I confess to having done some archaeological digging in my own life.  It’s almost a necessity these days to figure out how we perk. But it definitely reminds me I share something with every other person on this planet. It is called a sinful nature and no matter how I try, I cannot become perfect or sinless. I have also learned something else, something much more important: I must rely on God’s grace to accept me, that it is not based on my performance, my past (no matter how good or bad), my upbringing, or my “religious efforts.”

Progression comes when I become more steeped in God’s magnificent grace.

Homecoming

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Maybe Homegoing is a better way to say it.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

Saturday. September 9th. 4:00 PM. Mike Murphy went home.

Mike fought a valiant battle. He remained upbeat as much as he was able until the disease robbed him of the ability to show it. He lost his physical strength. He lost his ability to verbally communicate. Eventually the cancer which had spread throughout his body robbed him of his ability to even breathe.

But throughout the ordeal, which really wasn’t long compared to some, Mike maintained one very important thought: “I know whom I have believed and I know He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him for that day.” Mike’s attitude soon reflected the same I saw in my late mother: He would fall asleep and wake and with disappointment say, “Oh, I’m still here.” He wasn’t in a hurry to leave Sheila, his wife of 17 years. (I married them in June of 2000 in Terre Haute, IN). He was in a hurry to see Jesus, the One who loved him, saved him, gave him the love of his life, and would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Mike is home.

Thanks to all of you who prayed for Mike and Sheila. She needs your prayers now as she makes the necessary preparations for his celebration. They have asked me to speak at his funeral. I’d appreciate your prayers for me as I prepare my remarks. That, of course, means my presence here and at your place will be up in the air.  I’m sure you will understand if I don’t make it by to comment.

I’m glad I can approach Mike’s funeral with joy (mingled with sadness of course), but joy because I know where he is spending eternity.  I cannot say that for all funeral services I do, nor am I happy when I do one where the person has rejected God’s love and invitation. The odds are 1 out of 1 that we will die. Are you ready?

Humbling

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

On this Labor Day weekend I salute all who work, those who labor honestly and do all they can to take care of their family. But in all our work there is also something we need to be aware of. It is in this story:

When George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously answered, “Because it is there.” But in a personal letter to his wife, Ruth, he revealed even more about what drove him. “Dearest…you must know that the spur to do my best is you and you again…I want more than anything to prove worthy of you.”  George left a meaningful legacy that proved worthy of history’s remembrance. But George’s son John wrote something that has challenged me. Proud of his father but sad too, John wrote, “I would so much rather have known my father than to have grown up in the shadow of a legend, a hero, as some people perceive him to be.  (copied from The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine- page 78)

Sadly, we live in an age where “making a living” or “making a name for ourselves” seems to be much more important than making a name with our children. The mountain “was there” but so was his son. It is far more important in my eyes to be a successful father in my daughters’ eyes than to be rich, powerful, or well-known.

Take time this Labor Day to reflect on what you have been blessed with. Work hard at what you do. But don’t forget there are people whom you come home to who don’t care if you are a CEO or a common laborer. Being a hero in their eyes is the prize worth pursuing.

Lighthouse

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Meet Nina and the Lighthouse at Presque Isle. Presque Isle Light is one of three lighthouses on Lake Erie. It is located on the northern shore of Presque Isle State Park.  It stands 68′ tall, was constructed in 1872 and became automated in 1962. For more information about this lighthouse go hereThis site here also gives some really interesting insight into the lighthouse.

I spent five years pastoring a church in Sandusky, Ohio so I made frequent trips to the lighthouse at Marblehead, OH. If captains and sailors could speak today I’m sure they could tell fantastic stories of Marblehead, Presque Isle and others. Countless lives were saved and ships averted disaster because of the light from the lighthouse. It used to be manned by individuals. What a lonely job that must have been! But what an essential job it was also.

The importance of the lighthouse cannot be diminished in any way. Its light shined through all kinds of weather. I used to drive to Marblehead in the middle of January just to see the ice build up and to see how far out it went. You could see Kelly’s Island from the lighthouse and there were times it was shut down and only a plane could get people off the island. I don’t know how many lighthouses are still working and shining its light, especially with the more sophisticated equipment on ships these days.

Nina is Dave’s daughter. Dave wrote about the death of his friend, Lynn. Nina was riding on a tandem with him when the accident happened. The Presque Isle lighthouse was Lynn’s favorite. Part of Dave and Nina’s therapy was going to the lighthouse and having the above picture taken. Therapy comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Below is also some of Nina’s therapy and her tribute to Lynn. I wanted to use this during the week I was having my surgery and had guest writers but it was unavailable. Nina drew this from a postcard and drew it all freehand. I’d say quite a gift!

The spiritual application is easy. Jesus once said, “I am the Light of the World.” Elsewhere the Bible says, “People who live in darkness have seen a great light.” I’ll close this long post with this song. If you have trouble with the lyrics (which you shouldn’t) click on Show More below the video.

Admission

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

I don’t think it is just a “man thing.”

Nor do I think it is just a “woman thing.”

I do, however, think it is a “human thing.”

What is that you ask?

Admitting we are wrong.

Who me? Admit I’m wrong? We make all kinds of jokes about that. Who hasn’t heard the old standby? “I thought I was wrong once…but I was mistaken.” More arguments and fights could be avoided if someone…the guilty party(ies) would simply admit, “I was wrong. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”

Like I said…most arguments and fights could be avoided if someone would voice those three magic words: “I was wrong.”

I read an interesting line this past week from a book called The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine. I started reading it several months ago…got waylaid and sidetracked…but after lunch with a fellow pastor this past week, I decided it might be a good thing to keep reading it. Glad I did because I read this:

Because we are right on one thing, never means that we are right about everything or even about what matters most. (p.109)

I can attest to that. I’d like to believe I am right…not just once, not just twice, but all most of the time.  I will occasionally slip up and admit my mistakes. 🙂 The point he makes is during a discussion in Luke 7 involving the Pharisee’s inability to recognize that truth. He wanted to judge instead of love.

Hi… I’m Bill and I’m a sinner…

 

Rebel

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Or maybe you think Radical. Or maybe neither.

I guess it would depend on your perspective. Monday was the day everyone had been talking about for weeks, even months. Some saw it as an historical moment they didn’t want to miss. Others, like my daughter, Tami, saw it as an opportunity to teach her students the value of moments. She went out and bought glasses for all her children and planned a celebration with Moon Pies and CapriSun drinks. How ingenious is that? She is soooo creative! Well…her school system put the kabosh on viewing the eclipse (can anyone say kindergarten students and liability?) so they live-streamed it and still ate the Moon Pies and drank the CapriSuns.  🙂

So…I confess. I did not view the eclipse. I know. I know. How could I? Easy. I didn’t buy any glasses. I prefer to see for the rest of my life. PLUS I don’t think it would be wise staring at the sun/eclipse while driving. I consider that a slightly smarter thing than going blind or having a wreck.  Some will question my sanity. How could you not view something which only comes around once-in-a-lifetime? How could you pass up seeing a wonder of God’s creative genius? Easy. I don’t need proof for that.

I know that’s simple and maybe simplistic and some will even use the word “simpleton’ to describe me. 🙂  But I guess I don’t need to see an eclipse to know of God’s handiwork. I don’t need an eclipse to know that His creative genius was at work when He created the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:1). I see His full display each day I look in a mirror or see a fellow human.  I am not downgrading the thousands who took the time to witness a rare event. I guess I’m not a “fad” person.

I’m a rebel I guess. I just wish all those who witnessed the eclipse could somehow realize the WHO is behind it all and give Him the glory He deserves. It was a beautiful sight, without a doubt (the pictures I saw proved that). But personally, I can’t wait to witness Him face-to-face in all His glory.

Now…if we can only get those idiots who predicted the end of the world and this or that off the airwaves and out of the news that would be something worthy to celebrate as well!

Quote

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

After yesterday’s sermon someone walked out and handed me this quote. I don’t know her story yet,  but I do know she is grateful for God’s grace in her life.

Your best day is never so good that you don’t need God’s grace; your worst day is never so bad that you are beyond God’s grace.  Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace

What a powerful quote! I’m afraid that many of us declare our day good or bad based on how we feel. This quote debunks the whole myth that our daily lives matter or don’t matter based upon how we feel. Our lives have significance or don’t have significance based on what we do or don’t do. We need to remember that our acceptance by God is not based on performance of any kind-good, bad or indifferent.

I have adopted the daily prayer of needing God’s grace each day. Each moment of every day. Each hour of every day. Each second of every day. Awake or asleep; studying or not; playing or being serious. I want grace to be such a part of me that I think of it when I wake up; think about it when I work; think about it when I play;  think about it when I lay my head on the pillow.

I need to rest in what God really thinks of me: I am His beloved child and He loves me unconditionally.  How about you?

LIFE!!

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Here’s something for your Monday morning (and your week)!

GRACE

I was studying Saturday and after watching the video I was going to show and re-watching this one, I decided to show this one instead. I love the message. I love the tempo. I love the message. I love the lyrics. Have I told you I loved the message?

It is a message we all need to hear. Bar none. For those of us who are Christ-followers that message rings even more true.

Not much more to add today. Just wanted to brighten your day and hopefully your week with this phenomenal song with a fantastic message.  Have I told you…?

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.

Change

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

I’ve written about change a lot. As a pastor, the church is often being challenged to change. Status quo just doesn’t work any more. This is not a slam against churches which prefer hymns as opposed to more contemporary worship. This is not a slam against churches which prefer King Jimmy versus the ESV or some more easily understood translation.

Instead, I want us to take a look at the “why” change is so difficult-for churches-but specifically individuals. I’m seeing this first hand to be honest. My recent back surgery is filled with “Don’ts.” Don’t bend over at the waist. Don’t exercise. Don’t ride a bike. Don’t twist and bend. For 30 days they are asking telling ordering me not to do certain things. Do you know how hard it is to change some ingrained habits? I even went so far as to call them and ask if I could go to the Y since I was bored not being able to exercise. But then my hip and calf started aching so I answered the question myself: I wasn’t ready. So I went for a longer walk than I had before. Yeah…it was too far. I guess they know more than I do?

Change is hard, in all things. What makes change so hard, I think, is the fear of failure. What happens if…? We fear becoming a failure or being seen as one. That is a lie though. Failing to make a change does not make us a failure. That is not who we are. Failure is not getting back up after falling down. We need to stop believing the lie we can’t change. Our enemy wants us to stay entrenched in concrete. The last thing he wants to see is us moving in the power of the Spirit as we allow Him to change us.

I’ve been working on a tentative sermon schedule for 2018 under the working theme of “Accept the Challenge.” Can you guess what one of the series might be on?  🙂

I may be incommunicado for a couple of days. Jo & I are heading to Ohio for Monday and Tuesday. Our grandson, Braden, starts school on Wednesday. He was supposed to come Labor Day weekend to visit but that has changed and if we want to see him before Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is the time.