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Father

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Like most dads, I’d like to believe I was a good father. I know I made some mistakes along the way (so they tell me), but all in all I think I was and still am a pretty good father. Here’s how I know. Besides, the normal things like laughing, playing, listening, attending their games, concerts and other functions (even though at times we were the parents who were “over there”), and being a support to them, I told them they could have whatever pet they wanted, just not a cat. I didn’t have to worry about a snake, turtle, and definitely not something in the hamster/gerbil family (they were too close to mice). And I was a good father/husband because far be it from me to laugh when they jumped up on the chair or couch or screamed their lungs out when they saw a mouse.  I could tell you more but it would make me look really good bad.

I’ve always said that it was too bad raising children didn’t come with an operator’s manual. Then again, it wouldn’t work since all kids are different. That manual would have to be bigger than a Family Bible! Being a father is one of the greatest privileges I have ever had. In fact, I would put it second to being married to Jo.

It is also pretty well agreed that our view of God is formed and predicated on our relationship with our earthly father. As part of this series, I have talked about God the Son and God the Holy Spirit but pushed this particular one- God the Father-to the end. So this Sunday I will be looking at God as

  • A Patient Father
  • A Forgiving Father
  • A Proud Father

Your prayers would be appreciated.

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?

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.

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).

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.

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.

Quotes/Thoughts

Monday, June 5th, 2017

I find myself today running in a few minutes to a hospital close to an hour away for a man in the church who is having a knee replacement so I have precious little time to write a blog. So I thought I would give you some of the quotes/thoughts from the New Morning Mercies devotional I reviewed last week here.

From June 1: “God’s care comes in many forms. He cares enough to break your bones in order to capture your heart.” Tripp closes his thoughts with this: “You care enough to give me what I need, not what I want. You care enough to break my bones in order to recapture my heart.”

Of course, that hit home for me. Once in November (which didn’t take) and then again in February, I had bicycle accidents. The latter broke a collarbone and 3 ribs among other injuries. I don’t believe God literally reached down with His finger and had that car hit me, nor do I believe He put His finger on me and then flipped it sending me to the pavement in an endo. But He can use events in our lives to get our attention. In this case, He used it to recapture my heart.

From June 3: “It would be amazing if a God of awesome glory recognized our existence, but for Him to welcome us into His family is grace beyond amazing!” I’d say John Newton used the right word. Don’t you think so too?

From June 5 (today): “God’s grace is active, rescuing, transformative grace. You celebrate this by being as serious about your need as the God of grace is.” It took me three times reading that until it finally began to soak in. God took sin-the Fall-seriously. So much so that He immediately meted out punishment and put in motion the wheels for our salvation. Sin is no laughing matter. Gal. 6 tells us, “God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows that shall he reap.” Two words: not pretty.

Chew on those today and then let me hear your thoughts if you can to respond.