Grace

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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.

Bellyaching

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

This is not a post about waking up in the middle of the night with your belly aching.

I’m not sure how common it was in your neck of the woods but in the part of Pennsylvania I grew up in (near Pittsburgh), it was common to hear someone say, “Oh quit your bellyaching!” I’m sure you are smart enough to know they were telling the person to quit complaining and griping.

Seems to me that particular vice comes easily too easily to some people. When it is all sifted and sorted through, bellyaching is nothing more than a snarky attitude about life. It isn’t a new problem either. The people of Israel had a handle fully on that plow. You can see it Numbers 11 and Deuteronomy 1: 19-36. The latter is a pretty well known story of how the Israelites had a chance to move into the Promised Land but allowed the complaining and griping to drown out the reassurance of Joshua and Caleb that they could take that land.

Complaining has no boundaries or class of people it is limited to. Rich and poor. White or black (or any color). Believer or non-believer. You name it; you will find complaining.

Sunday’s sermon continues the series on Grace as I look at this very common trait among people who have been shown grace. Your prayers would be appreciated. By the way: are you a bellyacher? A complainer? Oh yeah…and for your listening pleasure I am showing this video to start the sermon. It’s called a Throwback. Enjoy!!

Revenge??

Friday, August 4th, 2017

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Don’t Get Mad. Get Even?????

Filled with question marks for a reason.

You may have heard the story of the man who was bit by a dog which was later found to be rabid. The man had contracted rabies and this was a time when nothing much could be done after rabies had set in. The doctor told him everything possible would be done to make him comfortable, but his advice was for the man to get his affairs in order as soon as possible.

The dying man sank back in depression and shock, but finally rallied enough strength for a pen and paper. He began writing furiously.

About an hour later the doctor returned and the man’s pen was still flowing. The doctor said, “I’m glad to see you are taking my advice. Are you working on your will?”

“This ain’t no will, Doc,” the man said. “It’s a list of people I plan on bitin’ before I die.”

We may chuckle at that somewhat fanciful illustration, but I suspect there is something in all of us that can probably relate to that story.  Did you know there is a website called “ThePayBack.com” where it boasts about helping you get revenge? Seriously.

But here is the $1 million question: is that really the answer? Really? No matter how much or in what way we have been hurt. I am of the opinion the answer is no. Never has been and never will be. “Don’t get mad. Get even” is a lousy philosophy.

In the OT we have a living, breathing example of vengeance withheld, actually averted when everything justified it (at least in the perpetrator’s mind). Check out I Samuel 25 for the story.  Prayers for this weekend would be much appreciated. Thanks ahead of time.

ForgivenessIsNot

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

I delayed this post due to the one about ME. But don’t think for one moment that means it is any less important. In fact, there may be a “reason” why I was led to delay posting this. Only God knows I guess. 🙂

This past Sunday I preached on Forgiveness. I told the folks as I was studying for the message I scoured my books for help. I think I almost went book for book, shelf for shelf, looking for ways to help the sermon be a bit more relevant. I found something in a book by Sheila Walsh called The Storm Inside. The chapter was titled Navigating Treacherous Water: From Unforgiveness to Freedom.  I hit, as they say, the mother lode! She began the chapter with a quote from C.S.Lewis:

Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.

Before I share what she wrote, let me preface it by saying that I think many people have the wrong idea of forgiveness. We often think forgiveness = forgetting. I, for one, don’t know that it is humanly possible to forget what has been done to us. So I focused on what forgiveness is not (from her book written in blue):

  • Forgiveness does not say that what the person did was okay; people do many things that are far from okay.
  • Forgiveness does not say that you have to continue in a hurtful relationship with someone who has harmed and will continue harming you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should stay with someone who is beating the tar out of you or molesting you. GET OUT!
  • Forgiveness is not burying your head in the sand and pretending the offense never happened.  That’s what got you into the mess in the first place.
  • Forgiveness is not denying the pain.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we don’t take the wrong seriously.

Forgiveness is not about removing someone’s liability, but about setting your own heart free. It’s not about the other person’s sin; it’s about your freedom.

I hope you are living in forgiveness and experiencing freedom. If not, maybe these will help.

ME

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I was all set to add to my thoughts on forgiveness from this post when I had a change of thoughts heart.  I read something that sort of made me think a little too deeply for a Monday morning.  This morning in New Morning Mercies, Paul Tripp wrote this:

Grace not only forgives me, but enables me to live for something hugely bigger than myself. Why go back to my little kingdom of one? {Note: I change to the personal “me” or “my” when I write in my journal. He uses “you.”}

That phrase “kingdom of one” brought me back to a book I started reading over the weekend called More: How to Move from Activity for God to Intimacy with God by Greg L. Hawkins. Greg is one of the teaching pastors at Oak Hills Church where he joins Max Lucado and Randy Frazee.  I just happened to read last night about what Greg calls the “Kingdom of Me.” To summarize Greg says, “Many of us live in a box. It’s a small box known as the Kingdom of Me. We control what happens there.” However, he goes on to show how that box is awful small.

My thoughts ran like this: I spend a lot of time promoting the kingdom of Me. Such a tiny, small kingdom. The Pharisees promoted their tiny kingdom based on performance, personal power and acclaim. Mine isn’t so much personal power but I can say performance rears its ugly head, as does a little bit of acclaim from time to time (you know…I’d like to be known in the community type of acclaim).  Funny (not the ha ha kind): the phrase which going through my head was “Help me, Lord! Rescue me from me!”

So…how big is your kingdom?

Goodbye!

Friday, July 28th, 2017

When we are born two things happen: One, we start to die. Two, we start to grow. Seems incongruous, I know, but it is true. It is the latter I want to take a look at.

Growing up is part of life. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I heard, “Oh…grow up!” or the number of times I have used that same phrase. In Ephesians 4: 15-16,26-32 Paul tells us to grow up and as he does he tells us to get rid of certain things. What gives?  So that we will no longer be infants we need to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, clamor and slander (to name a few). The subtraction method allows for the addition to take place. As we say goodbye, we can add to make our lives more productive.

Forgiveness is a huge part of moving on. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Is.43:18-19)  It is the enemy’s plan to use your hurts to hold you back. He wants to put boundaries on your life based on your fear of getting hurt again. Total freedom means not allowing past hurts to direct our lives, tarnish our relationships and shape our personalities.

My sermon Sunday will be a real test. Physically of my ability to bounce back from surgery. Spiritually of our ability to overcome the ugliness of unforgiveness. Prayers would be appreciated on both fronts this weekend. Thanks..

Two-wayStreet

Friday, July 21st, 2017

One is hard-pressed these days to listen to the news. If you do, hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear about someone shooting up a place because of mistreatment or hidden anger/resentment.  Often you might hear how “highly respectable” or “a member of the local church” someone is only to hear they went on a shooting spree and took countless lives,  then often turning the gun on themselves.  Just recently you might remember reading about a man who went to a softball practice of one of the political parties and had a shooting spree.

Ephesians 4:31 tells us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” Sounds simple enough, but as we all know, life isn’t that easy.

One of the hardest things to do is to receive grace and then to turn around and give it. There is a story Jesus told in Matthew 18 of that principle. A man was forgiven of a humongous debt, one which he could never repay. But then he went out and demanded payment from a fellow slave who owed him pennies. When he couldn’t pay him at that instant, he threw him in jail. (BTW: how does that work anyway? “I’m going to throw you in jail until you pay me what you owe.”).

Grace received…grace given. A two-way street. If I may borrow a statement from Kyle Idleman’s book Grace is Greater:

Stop thinking about what’s been done to you, and start thinking about what’s been done for you.

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).