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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).

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.

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.  🙂

44

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

 

Okay so this will post a day early. This weekend is Father’s Day (as you probably already know) and I plan to use the weekend post for my sermon.

However, Friday, June 16th is mine and Jo’s 44th anniversary. I’m not going to get all sappy on you. (I’ll save that for her).  🙂  We got married between our Junior and Senior years in college. We dated for just over two years before that.

I could tell you we used to hang around with a group of other students and did some things that we cringe at today. Like crawling through a cave at Carter Caves State Park. Filled with bat guana. Holes so small I wonder now “what were we thinking?” An adventure I’d “shoot” my girls if they ever did. Yeah…our parents never knew.

I played basketball. She tried out for the cheerleading squad but was never chosen. But she was one of the biggest cheerleaders there. She was mine our Sophomore and Junior year. (I didn’t play our Senior year. Thought I would concentrate on studying.  Didn’t help).

We have served in all sizes and shapes of churches. From vibrant to dead end. From pastor to youth pastor. I’ve been asked to leave a few times (no morals charge) and I have left on my own. Ohio to Ohio to Ohio to Indiana to Ohio to Indiana to Ohio and back to Indiana (where we are now).

She never complained. She never balked. She never left. She never left kicking and screaming. She trusted my judgment (Hmmmm) and more so, God’s plan for us.

She hates public speaking. She doesn’t sing solos. She doesn’t play an instrument. But she was and is a fantastic mom and mamaw. She shines in the latter. She does the Power Point each week, faithfully typing it even when we are going to be gone. She loves behind-the-scenes.

She loves me. I have seen how deep her love reaches the past few months as I have had to deal with the two bicycle wrecks, the one in February bringing me close to checking out (if not for my helmet).  She wants to do more and bristles when I do it myself.  Neither one of us looks like we did when we got married.  (I was 6’3″ and 170 lbs. I am now 6’5″ and 215 lbs. I value my life so don’t even ask about her. LOL

I could go on but this has gone on long enough.  Or I could ask, “How much time do you have?” She is my treasure. We have had our ups and downs but have never thought about closing the door. No…we love each other too much for that.  Besides, where else will I find someone who will put up with my cycling nonsense (some might say obsession) and weird humor?

I love you honey. Happy 44th.  https://youtu.be/PEENq0d6fWI

 

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.

Types

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

I am a leader. I have not always understood that. I have not always embraced that. And I most certainly have not always lived like it.

BUT I AM A LEADER

The important question to answer right now is this: What kind? Sunday’s sermon from 3 John has got me thinking about my leadership type/style.

First, I am not a hard-driver. I strive for relaxation in the office. I will not/cannot/won’t ride herd on the other two in the office. It just isn’t me. John Maxwell I’m not. Been there. Tried that. Failed that test. We laugh a lot. A LOT. Our staff meetings might be suddenly interrupted by a “video reference,” most likely by Ryan or Diana bringing up a scene from Big Bang Theory. I am more prone to music videos or YouTube.

Second, I am not wired tightly. I know that. I haven’t studied the Type A/Type B personalities. God has not made me wired like a guitar or tighter than a drum. I am who I am. I repeat: I would not do well in the Maxwell School of Leadership.

The three men mentioned in 3 John had different leadership styles…obviously. Gaius had an open heart and home. Diotrephes had a “Messiah complex.” Demetrius had a good reputation. Churches are not perfect. It is made up of humans. {Go figure} The early church had the same issues churches today have: Leadership. Love. Power. Conflicts. All imperfect. But God can still use the church…and does.

What kind of leader are you?

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.

EveryMorning

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

There has always been a dichotomy of thought. Should a person’s Quiet Time (QT) be in the morning or is it okay to have it in the evening? Middle of the day? To be honest I have always been a “have it in the morning kind of guy.” Not because that is the only right time, but it is the time that I am sharpest and most aware. I usually find myself busy in the afternoon so it is easy to push it aside. By the time night rolls around my philosophy is night time is good for one thing…sleeping.

Sometime in March I was perusing a Christian bookstore when I ran across a devotional by Paul David Tripp called New Morning Mercies. It is subtitled A Daily Gospel Devotional. I decided I needed something to liven up my morning QT so I bought it. After the first devotion, March 19th, I was hooked. By the end of the first week I had begun to think of other guys I would love to involve in this. How could I do that? So I bought 3 other copies and gave them away to 3 guys. (I later added a fourth). Then started an “email club” where each day we send our thoughts via email to the group of 5. Comments can be made on each other’s thoughts. It has been a super exciting adventure! I’m looking now to maybe adding another group (5 is as big as I want it to be) and would love to have a women’s group get started as well.

The devotions are solid. Real solid. No fluff. No prosperity garbage. Just solid gospel devotional. Lots on GRACE! (My favorite topic). Real challenging spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Each devotional takes about 5-10 minutes to read (I underline also) and includes a Scripture at the end for reference. My plan is to go through this once then the second time through use the daily Scripture for my QT. I have yet to run into a boring morning mercy. And trust me, it is aptly titled: New Morning Mercies. These devotionals have got my brain wired.

Tripp started out by tweeting three tweets a day. They were so popular that he was asked/encouraged to expand on them and do a devotional based on them. This book is that expansion.

I am partial to the gift edition. It is a hardback in a slipcase. It also comes cheaper in paperback.  Here is the edition I like.

New Morning Mercies (Gift Edition): A Daily Gospel Devotional

I think you ought to give this a good, long, honest, hard look. You will be really pleasantly surprised. If not, send me the book. I will put it to good use. 🙂  And by the way: I would not be opposed to having an online email with some of you if you find that appealing.

Wars

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Some wars are justified; some are not. (not a political statement so stay away from there). Church history gives us plenty of ammunition for proof. The Reformation is a perfect example of that.

Down through the years, music has been a battleground. I was hoping it was over but recently one of our college students came home and I asked him about the bruhaha about the music that he got involved in. Seems the college president made the comment that the only “real” Christian music was southern gospel and hymns and he challenged the students to give up their “devil” music (my summary not exact words).

UGH!

I like and respect Chuck Swindoll and read a great article by him last week on music. I’d like to share it with you in its entirety and hear your thoughts. It is entitled Sing New Songs…With Old Truths:

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

Because the theology of hymns is far too rich and beneficial to lose. The hymn writers were wordsmiths and musicians (seldom the same person) who wove theology and melody together into splendid compositions.

They gave us words for worship and marvelous music. One of the benefits of music—whatever style you choose—is that it helps cement truth in our brains stronger than memorizing words alone.

We remember words easier with a tune attached. Hymns bring to mind deep and practical truths, not only for times of worship but also for times of trial and distress.

I have always loved the old hymns, and I always will . . . because the truths they express are timeless.

However, let me quickly add that the canon isn’t closed on music for worship. In addition to hymns, each new generation will continue to compose fresh choruses of worship and new songs of praise . . . and that is as it should be—it’s biblical!

Fresh and Creative

Those churches who believe we should only have hymns have forgotten the words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, who wrote:

I will sing a new song to You, O God;
Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You. (Psalm 144:9, emphasis added)

The prophet Isaiah and the apostle John later used similar words (Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9). The worship of our Creator should stay fresh and creative.

There is everything right about singing new songs. But we must be certain that the songs we compose and sing express sound doctrine and not human-centered philosophy.

Simply claiming, “The Lord gave me this song,” doesn’t qualify it for public worship. Even Christians in the first century were urged to “test” the words they heard (1 John 4:1–6).

Furthermore, a good melody should never override our critical thinking. Lyrics take on significance only when they are filtered through the inerrant text of the Holy Scriptures.

The music can be new . . . but the truths the music proclaims must not be.

I second his thoughts. I love the new music. But I tire of the repetition which many of them have. I can think of a few right now which turn my stomach just thinking about them.

But I would love to hear your thoughts.