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Why?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

I’m reading a book right now called Notes from the Valley by Pastor Andy MCquitty,  subtitled “A Spiritual Travelogue Through Cancer.” No…I don’t have cancer that I know of. But so many people whom I love and care about do. Andy is no different than “regular” people. Just because he is a pastor does not mean he did not ask the same questions other do.  Many people expect pastors to be “above others.” They don’t want a pastor who is better than them or thinks he is better than them. They don’t want a pastor who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to.

But…

They also expect him to be above the fray. You know… he should never ask or question God.  He should have perfect faith. Never a doubt. Never a fear. Never a raised voice in anger toward God.

May I let you in on something? Get your head out of the sand! I put my pants and shirt on the same way you do.  As much as I wish I could sometimes, I don’t tear open the buttons of my shirt (sort of hard since I wear t-shirts so often) to reveal a Captain America logo. Or a giant “S.”  I/pastors have feelings just like you. Just like your cancer-ridden friend.  Just like your friend whose parent’s mind is being ravaged by dementia or Parkinson’s. Just like you when you have heard of another friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. Or a baby born with physical problems.

Just like you Pastor Andy asked, “Why?” “Why me and not him?” Just like you your pastor struggles with having answers to unanswerable questions.

And just like you I am sometimes astonished God answers a prayer when I least expect it or in a way that is not on my radar. What prompted this post? Several things. I’ve already told you about my friends. But I also have been reading in Acts as I read through my ESV Reader’s Bible and read the story today of Peter’s release from prison by the angel. He goes to a house where they are praying for him and the servant girl is so astounded she leaves him outside. When she tells the people praying they say, “No way. No. No. No.” (my version). And when she convinces them to take a look they are astonished God answered their prayer. I chuckle at that. Not because of their lack of faith, but because “been there done that.” (Full story in Acts 12:6-19)

So ask “Why?” Go ahead. Ask away. He will not turn a deaf ear. But let it lead you to the One who can answer it.  But I have also learned there is a better question to ask. Instead of why, the better question is “What now? How do you want me to respond?”

Anchor

Friday, April 20th, 2018

We all face seemingly insurmountable odds from time to time. Some more than others. But when we are in those periods that want to overwhelm us, we need an anchor-Someone or something to cling to. Given the way things just up and disappear or rust away or disintegrate, I believe the SOMEONE is a better anchor.

This final True North sermon from Hebrews 11 (next week’s is from Hebrews 12:1-3) takes in a laundry list of people whose faith was evident, even though it might have been weak at the get-go. Gideon. Barak. Samson. Jephthah. Names which are not really household names. Okay, maybe Gideon and Samson are the more familiar ones, but the other two? I’m thinking 9 out of 10 would not know who they were (and in some circles 10 out of 10).

Paul states in 2 Cor.12 that “God’s grace is sufficient in all things. When I am weak, He become strong.” That is the underlying thought for this week’s message: God is sufficient. He empowers the weak to be strong (the aforementioned biblical characters). He also sustains the weak to be strong. Elijah. Elisha. Followers of Christ who refuse to recant their faith in Christ, even in spite of the persecution, possible torture and imprisonment, and death.

This series is coming to a close next week. It will be good to talk about God’s part in being an anchor when our faith is rocked. I’d appreciate your prayers for this weekend. Thanks ahead of time.

Pardon?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

My grandfather used to say, when someone would say something to him that he did not hear (he worked in a steel mill as a welder all his life), “Pardon?” I was taught to say, “Excuse me?” or “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.” That’s a whole lot different than the “Huh?’ or “Wha-a-a-t?” we often hear today. Okay, off rabbit trail and back to original thought. Pardon. We hear about pardons being granted to criminals, or even every day “Joe’s” by people. It’s not always easy to offer that.

In this post I mentioned reading a book called Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. What an excellent book!  He tells the story of a man named George Wilson who pled guilty to several counts of robbery and “endangering the life of a mail driver” and apparently it was serious enough to merit the death penalty. Wilson was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson chose to issue Wilson a full pardon, but Wilson, for reasons we will probably never know, refused to accept it. In United States v. Wilson, 1833, the Supreme Court issued its verdict saying (in essence), “If the pardon is rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.”

Seems strange to me that a man would reject a pardon which exonerated him, but also set him free. Seems strange to me why people would reject the pardon offered by God which would exonerate a person of their sin, and at the same time set them free. In my mind, the choice is a no-brainer.

Strange indeed.

HomewardBound

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Just as there are certain events that affect our lives, and we know what we were doing and where we were when they happened, words or statements are the same.

9/11

“President Kennedy has been shot” (for those old enough)

“President Reagan has been shot”

“Houston, we have a problem.”

Precise timing and movements were needed to make sure Apollo 13 made it home. One mistake and the capsule and astronauts would be doomed to outer space. Getting them home was a priority.

For some reason many don’t like to talk about the future. I’m not talking about future events (Rapture, 666, etc).  For me as a Christ-follower I like to talk about my future. It is secure.  I know that because of God’s promise, but I also know that because of hope. Properly focused hope gives us the assurance of a home for eternity.  Now…I’m not talking about the “I hope it is nice weather tomorrow” or “I hope he/she smiles at me.” No, the hope I am talking about goes much deeper.

Take away hope and you take away a reason for living. In the case of the Christ-follower, if our hope is not connected to forever, our hope will somehow die. Living with forever in view gives us an unshakeable reason for hope.

My sermon Sunday is called Homeward Bound. I’m using Hebrews 11:11-16, 32-40 as my passage. Come join us or listen online or if you are too far away, please say a prayer for me and the folks at OVCF. Thanks.

And speaking of Homeward Bound, today, April 13th marks the birthday of my late mother. She would have been 86. She’s home.

Understand?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

I’ve said here before in my blog that I lack some things. One of those is “super intelligence.” I am not a deep-thinker by nature and often get bored when the subject goes deeper than a) I want to go and b) I am able to understand. People will ask me questions which “go beyond my pay grade” i.e. beyond my ability to understand and explain. There are certain mysteries I accept without feeling like I have to have a PhD to “sign off” on.

One of those is God. I am often asked hard questions, at least hard ones for me. I can’t say I have ever had one of those “dark nights of the soul” where I questioned everything I have ever been taught and came out on the other side more convinced than ever of what I believe. My “dark night” (no not Batman) is more related to having questions about suffering, and why things happen that I don’t have an answer to or see no sense in.

I’m currently reading a book by J.D.Greear called Not God Enough. While it is different from my normal fare, it has been a great book. An understandable book (for me). I’m almost 100 pages into this 200+ page book and I’m finding some good, thought-provoking stuff. Perhaps the best way to describe its approach is to use his opening statement of Chapter 1:

A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped. Evelyn Underhill

There is no way “under God’s green earth” that I can or will ever understand God, what makes Him tick (except His love for me), or how He operates.  But the good thing is I don’t have to!! I often tell people it is okay to have doubts. True, doubt can drive you backward into disbelief, but it can also drive you forward into real faith. 

I will never understand all there is to know about God (nobody can). All I know is I believe He is who He said He is. He is the great I AM (as He told Moses). And for that, I make no apologies, nor do I need any letters after my name.

Image

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

There is no doubt we live in an image-conscious world. Fat-shaming. Body-shaming. All kinds of shaming going on. Cyber bullying has become a pastime for many. Plastic surgeons are in high demand to fix this, tuck this, remove this, do this, do that.

Whatever happened to Psalm 139: 13-16 and the reality it teaches? Before you jump all over me, I agree we ought to take care of ourselves. I don’t cycle and lift weights for nothing. But to body-shame someone because they don’t meet “our standard” of loveliness is just downright wrong. Sinful even. And to feel less than beautiful because of someone else’s standards is not right either.  Because of back surgery I am limited in what I can do for my core muscles. I was not allowed to do anything for almost 3 months. My stomach is not as flat, toned and defined as it once was. But that hasn’t stopped someone from commenting about it. I laugh it off but what would that do to someone who was less confident or didn’t know the uphill battle I face trying to find ways to exercise?

That is why this song was so insightful to me this past week.  If you have trouble with the lyrics I have included the lyric video of the song here.  I hope this helps set your week on a good path.

Reflection

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Once again my thoughts and heart are pulled to the reality of this week. We will soon celebrate what is known as Good Friday, the day traditionally given to remembering the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus. Soon…Sunday is coming!

Tuesday’s New Morning Mercies focused on Galatians 2:20. Living life in my own strength and by my own strength is an effort in futility. Gal.2:20 weaves into itself what I see as a formula: theological truth + practical truth = solid impact. Let me explain:

Theological truth= Jesus died for me, as my representative.

Practical truth= the power which is in me is Jesus.

Impactful (Yeah I know that is not a word) truth= I live with peace, hope and courage.

I’m honestly overwhelmed (and I hope it always stays this way) by the simplicity and power of the cross. How can I explain someone dying for me? Taking my pain and punishment? And then wanting to live within me? I can’t. It is a rare time I am speechless. The cross is a life-changing event. We sang a song this past Sunday with these lyrics: “The cross meant to kill is my victory.” I am going to celebrate the Cross with a grateful heart.

I unpack the above three “truth” statements a little more on my other blog. If you care to read them, you can click here.  Or you can click on the BeTransformed banner to the right and it will take you there.

I do have a prayer request: Tomorrow Jo & I will be taking Braden back to Ohio and then returning home…all in one day. It is supposed to rain a-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l day. Prayers would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Astounded

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

I have moments where I am totally astounded by God. They may come in different ways.

Hearing a song.

Participating in worship.

Listening to someone tell how God intervened in his/her life.

Watching a life being changed only by the grace of God.

Through the laughter and love of little Sophia (Jo & I are mamaw Jo and grandpa Bill) even though not related.

Through the love of a wife who continues to astound me with her grace toward me.

I could go on. But none astound me as much as God. Each day I awaken to new mercies. Each day I awaken to a new sunrise (eventually), new sights, new beginnings, new awareness, new direction, new hope. Again…I could go on.

But I am most astounded by the unconditional love and grace of a God who blesses me with more than I certainly deserve. In about an hour and a half we will enter into our corporate worship. I will sing praises. I will preach His Word. And I will anticipate being astounded by God. It is fitting that this song be the one I choose for this week. I hope it will speak to your heart and set your mind right for the week.  The words are easily understood but if you do have difficulty, they are included in the video description (hit SHOW MORE).

MAY GOD LEAVE YOU ASTOUNDED TODAY. MAY HE LEAVE YOU AMAZED THIS WEEK.

Fences

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

My apologies for not being here more often this week. Little did I know how “life was going to happen” and would change the color of my week. Nothing bad. I did drive 3 hours ( 1 1/2 each way) to attend the funeral of someone’s mother) but that was actually a refreshing time by myself. Jo had surgery last week so she was unable to make the trip with me. She gave me permission to turn my music up loud and listen away.  🙂 🙂 So I did! I even played air guitar and sang out loud!! Yeah…I was by myself and windows were up.

I wrote a devotion this morning about fences for my other blog Be Transformed. Writing in my journal every day while reading New Morning Mercies has been a phenomenal exercise in discipline for me.  I tend to be a pretty self-disciplined person but this has taken me to a new awareness of its importance. I read New Morning Mercies each day; journal; send it to my Band of Brothers; and then post it on Be Transformed.  Call this shameless promotion if you want to, but I’d like to invite you to read the post on Fences. I also invite your response.  You can purchase New Morning Mercies by going here.

Now…I’d like to invite you to join me at Be Transformed to read and comment (if you like).

EvenIf

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

This past Friday Jo and I drove to Ohio to see our daughter, son-in-law and Braden, our grandson. It had been since Christmas and we needed our “Braden fix.” I am also keenly aware that there will soon come a day when Grandpa and Mamaw will not be the people we are now…you know…someone to look forward to seeing. So I/we want to take advantage of that now.

Last weekend probably the closest lady friend Jo has in the church took her to see MercyMe in concert at Lafayette. Linda bought her the ticket for Christmas; Tami paid for her 1/2 of the hotel room; and I saved money for her to eat and spend however she wanted to. She had a blast and was thoroughly impressed by MM. So…on our way to Ohio we listened to their CD. It included the song you will have a chance to listen to.

I’ll be honest: I cannot listen or watch this song without tears in my eyes. While I don’t sing, I stand before people week after week as “God’s spokesman.” I’m supposed to have it all together. But what if I don’t? What if I’m struggling with my trust? Can I echo the sentiments of this song?  One thing for sure: this song kicks in the teeth of the health-wealth people who say God is going to make everything okay. G-r-r-r-r-r.

Anyway, enjoy the song. Let it minister to you today, this week. Pass it along to someone who needs to hear it.  For the backstory behind the song, listen to this.