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#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Blessed#CountThem

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Many of us can remember the old song “Count your many blessings name them one by one/Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It was especially pulled out of mothballs every Thanksgiving. And rightly so. But then again, it is sad. Why focus on blessings and saying thanks for them only when the holiday comes around?

British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Memory is very treacherous, by a strange perversity-it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected.” I’m afraid that is true for many of us. We get so caught up in the bad of the past that we often forget the good that has happened.

Psalm 103 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His hold name…Forget not all His benefits.” Here are four thoughts about God’s blessings that we should be aware of and I will be highlighting this week:

  1. God’s blessings are numerous and varied.
  2. God’s blessings are beyond what we deserve.  {Ain’t that the truth!}
  3. God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust.
  4. God’s blessings have a purpose.

This Sunday I am going to begin a two-part sermon series on thanksgiving as part of my Q & A series. It is titled What about Being Blessed?  If you happen to live near us and attend or plan to, we will not be meeting in person this week. Strictly online.  You can find the links on our church’s website.  Our live stream will begin at 10:45 and will be scaled down to an opening song (prerecorded), a communion thought and the sermon. There will only be 3 of us in the building-me, Jo and Ryan.

Your prayers would be most appreciated.

#4Truths#ClingTo

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

I mentioned in my last post that I was deeply influenced by 4 truths taught in Jesus Revolution by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn. Before I share those 4 truths, I think it is important to give you the backstory to them. Greg and Cathe Laurie are the parents of two sons. The oldest, Christopher, had gotten into drugs and the way of the world. But one day he recommitted his life to Christ and it was real. He became a good husband and father. He also worked alongside his dad, who was and is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.  One day they were waiting for Christopher to show with water for a ministry they were doing when it became later and later. Finally Greg received word that Christopher had been killed in a car accident. He said he collapsed on his front porch and and wept. But as he wept he said, “You gave him to me in the first place, and now I give him back to you.”  Would the faith they absorbed during the Jesus Movement days and practiced since the ’60s sustain he and Cathe? The reality of faith didn’t anesthetize the pain. Trusting Jesus wasn’t an emotional Xanax. But faith did make the pain bearable. 

They knew four truths, not just intellectually, but deep in their souls. These truths were what they could hold on to in the midst of their storm.  Here they are:

#1- Life is full of trouble, just as Jesus had promised.  John 16:33 comes to my mind when I think about this.

#2- They knew God loved them.  I personally think this is where we get tripped up the most. Sometimes we think we are owed something because of the life we have lived-both good and bad (our childhood for example). We might be going through a tough season-mentally, physically and spiritually-but we have the assurance of God’s love.

#3- They knew Jesus wept with them.  Ask for a memory verse in a contest and invariably someone will says, “Jesus wept.” We chuckle (although it is old) but have you ever considered the power in that short verse?

#4- They knew God can be glorified, in some mysterious way, by human suffering.  Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Lauries were able to say that as well.  The proof is in the fruit.

So much there.  Unpack it some more on your own. Want some help? Feel free to contact me.

#Faith#Feelings#Doubt#

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Today, Sunday, I spoke about how doubt should not be panned and dismissed as invalid. While I don’t question God’s character or who Jesus is as the Son of God, fully God and fully man, I do have questions. They center mostly on why things are the way they are. I struggle with not knowing what God has in mind for my life. I don’t doubt his love for me, nor do I doubt He has an ultimate plan. I struggle with Him not sharing it with me. 🙂

Part of my sermon was spent in Psalm 13 as David wrestles with the whole faith vs doubt thing.  I owe a debt of thanks to Randall Arthur (Randy Dodd) who first wrote about this in his excellent novel, Wisdom Hunter. (And yes, I am encouraging you to buy it and read it).  Anyway, here is how he teaches Psalm 13.

  1. In verse 1 David says God has forgotten him. But in verse 5 he says God loves him unceasingly (steadfast).
  2. In verse 1 he says that God has hidden His face from him. But in verse 6 he writes that God has been good to him. (dealt bountifully with me)
  3. In verse 2 he wrestled with many thoughts (take counsel in my soul) and had sorrow in his heart every day. But in verse 6 David says, “I will sing to the Lord.”
  4. In verse 2 David writes, “My enemy is triumphing over me.” And yet at the end of verse 5 he says God is delivering him (my heart shall rejoice in my salvation).

Why? Is David schizophrenic? No, of course not.  The point to see it this: There is often a difference between how we feel and what is true. Feelings can be so deceptive and unreliable. How many times have you or someone you know done something because “it felt right” or “it felt good,” but all along it is against the Scripture?  The very fact that David kept on going is proof that his beliefs kept him from being overtaken by his feelings. Trouble comes when our feelings become stronger than our beliefs.

I hope you will keep that in mind as you move through each day.

#Sovereignty#Timing

Friday, 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.

#Grace#HassledHeart

Friday, 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.

#Satisfaction#Emptiness

Friday, 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.

#NoPlaceToHide#Book Review

Tuesday, 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.

#Endurance#NeverGiveUp

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Over the past year or so we seem to be reading more-than-we-like-to-read articles of people who are walking away from their faith. Some of them have been very prominent people. One well-known author was known for his dating stance and became a very popular author and pastor.  He announced his separation and divorce and proclaimed himself apostate. One worship leader with Hillsong came out as did a recent member of a very prominent Christian music group. (Names are withheld on purpose).  On a much lesser scale, i.e. not being very well-known, are pastors and youth pastors who are defecting.

It happens with common people as well.  We might all know someone who has turned his/her back on their faith and embraced nothing but emptiness or vain philosophy.

The whole idea is nothing new. It happened in the OT. It happened in the NT (just ask Paul about Demas). It happens today as I have stated. The prophet Jeremiah was familiar with the history of Israel and their propensity for falling away. The book of Judges is a chronicle of that very problem. After the judge died it says, “They did what was right in their own eyes.” That about sums it up.

My sermon this Sunday touches on defection, but my point is really the importance of endurance. Jeremiah 2:1-9 deals with the defection of Israel and Hebrews 12: 1-3 shows us the importance of endurance and how to make it happen. My challenge is to stand strong and not quit.  That is for me. That is for you. That is for the folks who will be listening this week in-person or online.

Your prayers would be much appreciated.

#Faith#TruthfulSayings

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

I wrote a blog post here about reading Dr. Lee Warren’s book I’ve Seen the End of You.  Here are some thoughts from that book for you to think about this week:

With the prism of faith, we see only blurred lines of pain, disease, and disappointment.

Faith aligns what you think you’re seeing with reality. It shifts your focus from the problem to the promise.

Faith allows you to see it’s okay to have doubt but we doubt the doubt more than the promise of the One who never breaks His word.

Faith doesn’t keep us from having problems. (My note: Hear that all you health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel teachers?) It just gives a clearer view of how God is responding to them.

Doubt is not fatal if we recognize it for what it is: a smudge on the lens. When we realize that, wipe it clear, and put the glasses back on, we’ll be okay.

The things we think we know are more like cataracts. They can obscure and blind us to the truth of God’s work around us that is plain to see when our eyes are healthy.

(All taken from page 254 of Dr. Warren’s book)

I’d like to highly recommend you read his book. I am now reading his previous book, No Place to Hide which covers his time in Iraq as a medical surgeon in Balad. It is gut-wrenching so far. More praise to our armed forces!!