Grace

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Progression?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

I’ve been using Whiter Than Snow by Paul David Tripp during my morning Quiet Time in addition to my Bible reading and New Morning Mercies. I read one devotion per week, rereading it each day, looking for something new to ponder.

This week’s is entitled “Sinners and Unafraid.”  I’m not exactly sure why that title but it is the first line that I read which gave me the thought for this post.

The older you get the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. (p.53)

Hmmmm. What exactly does that mean? Maybe this will help. “When you’re young, you’re excitedly launching to worlds unknown…But as you get older, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward.” (p.53)

That makes sense to me. Like most ventures, the life of being a follower of Jesus is initially something exciting. Like putting on clothes just purchased, or a new car with that “smell,” or finding ourselves heading out for a first-time foray, there is something exciting which happens inside us. We are like an astronaut seeing things for the first time.

But then life hits. We get older and life is no longer like a box of chocolates. (I wish). As life hits, we begin digging into our past, sometimes looking for that missing piece of puzzle. That one thing which will help explain why we are as we are. Why we react the way we do. Why we are making the choices and decisions we are making. Why does this make me happy or sad?

I confess to having done some archaeological digging in my own life.  It’s almost a necessity these days to figure out how we perk. But it definitely reminds me I share something with every other person on this planet. It is called a sinful nature and no matter how I try, I cannot become perfect or sinless. I have also learned something else, something much more important: I must rely on God’s grace to accept me, that it is not based on my performance, my past (no matter how good or bad), my upbringing, or my “religious efforts.”

Progression comes when I become more steeped in God’s magnificent grace.

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.

Admission

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

I don’t think it is just a “man thing.”

Nor do I think it is just a “woman thing.”

I do, however, think it is a “human thing.”

What is that you ask?

Admitting we are wrong.

Who me? Admit I’m wrong? We make all kinds of jokes about that. Who hasn’t heard the old standby? “I thought I was wrong once…but I was mistaken.” More arguments and fights could be avoided if someone…the guilty party(ies) would simply admit, “I was wrong. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”

Like I said…most arguments and fights could be avoided if someone would voice those three magic words: “I was wrong.”

I read an interesting line this past week from a book called The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine. I started reading it several months ago…got waylaid and sidetracked…but after lunch with a fellow pastor this past week, I decided it might be a good thing to keep reading it. Glad I did because I read this:

Because we are right on one thing, never means that we are right about everything or even about what matters most. (p.109)

I can attest to that. I’d like to believe I am right…not just once, not just twice, but all most of the time.  I will occasionally slip up and admit my mistakes. 🙂 The point he makes is during a discussion in Luke 7 involving the Pharisee’s inability to recognize that truth. He wanted to judge instead of love.

Hi… I’m Bill and I’m a sinner…

 

Guest

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Grace is given in so many different ways. I have been spending a good part of the summer talking about Grace on Sunday mornings. Forgiveness. Failing to seek revenge. Releasing bitterness. Stopping complaining. And accepting God’s gift of grace to us just to name a few.

This Sunday we will be hearing about Grace through the words of someone else. Will & Theresa Reed, who have spent the past two years in Mundri and South Sudan, Africa, will be our guests this Sunday. Will & Theresa went to Mundri as missionaries with Serge. They had barely settled in when war broke out and they found themselves having to leave quickly and settle in South Sudan. They came home on furlough early summer limping-not physically but spiritually. Lots of debriefing and counseling for their tattered hearts/souls and through that they were advised to not return to Africa. Will will be seeking employment in this area and they will raise Ellie (born in Africa) with the help of friends and family. While in Africa Ellie had sleep issues which I’m sure contributed to Will & Theresa’s  emotions and stamina. They are a beautiful, young couple and I hope we are able to be a grace-filled place for them this Sunday.

Will has preached twice here before and has done a superb job. I look forward to hearing him again; seeing Theresa and Ellie; and laughing over lunch. I know they would appreciate your prayers as they transition to life in the states. I’m praying we can be grace to them while they are visiting.

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.