Grace

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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.  🙂

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.

Explanation

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Explanation or Excuse?

It has been a few days since I last posted a blog. I could say it was dry mind disease. But that would not be true. I have a lot of stuff going around in my head these days. Some good. Some not so good. 🙂  I could say it was “I have been so busy going from this person to that person in ministry.” But that would not be true either (although there has been some of that).

Truth is: I have been sort of preoccupied. After being gone to PA to see my brother & his wife (Rob & Joy) and my elderly father, I have found life not slowing down at all. I played catch up for several days. Throw in two doctor appointments due to the bicycle wrecks; an afternoon spent driving to and from a hospital an hour away; being a husband and a father; an apparent sciatic nerve issue due to the November wreck; and barely finding time for myself, I caught myself chasing my tail.

So with everything going on, the blog took a back seat. Sorry about that. Since the staff is going to lunch soon (and I am paying for the secretary’s since I forgot to honor her on Administrative Professional Day), I want to leave you with a few quotes:

“Discernment- the ability to tell the difference between right, and almost right.”  Given to me by someone after my sermon on discernment. (Quoted by Priscilla Shirer in her Armor of God Bible study. Original quote by Spurgeon).

“I rest assured that I am loved by a holy God. His will for me is always right, good and true.”

“Sinners tend to want to author their own moral codes.”  (Both quotes by Paul David Tripp in New Morning Mercies-May 10)

Just give you something to think about and chew on. Hope you have a great day.

Fog

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

As in stupor. Lull. Clouded mind.

This morning (Tuesday) I was reading a devotion from New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I’m not saying this lightly: I am not sure there has ever been a devotion that hit me so hard and so “where I live” as this one. I’m going to give you snippets of it in this blog and then include it at as a whole at the end.

Human beings, who were created to live in awe of God, are in grave danger when familiarity causes them to be bored with God.

That was just the opening line! But he wasn’t done.

Familiarity is a beautiful thing…But the blessing of blessings is to be familiar with the ways, the character, the presence, and the promises of God…Yes, familiarity is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a very dangerous thing.

By this time he had my undivided attention. Something began to ring in my ears and in my heart. Something disturbing. Convicting. Unnerving. Truthful.  Then came this:

Every human being was designed by God to have his hopes, dreams, choices, words, actions, desires, and motivations shaped by a jaw-dropping, heart-controlling, life-shaping awe of God…Familiarity causes us to lose our awe of God. What once stunned us doesn’t anymore. {Note: you can read the rest on your own below}

Here is what I wrote in my journal:

“I wonder, as I think back, if this is some of what happened {Note: previous to my bike wreck in February}. Had I lost my awe of God? Had I taken Him for granted? That, (along with a couple other factors), could be the source of my stupor and lull of the desert from mid summer to my wreck in February. I may not know what caused the wreck, but as time goes by I seem to get a better handle on my (spiritual) struggle leading up to it. And that is good. 🙂 As I do, a little more of me wakes up. And that is very good.” 🙂  (In case you are new, if you read here you will find out what happened.  You can find out what I did my first Sunday back in the pulpit after the wreck here. And then read this post to find out a recap of what has been happening.

I know we each have our own journey we are traveling. This may have absolutely no relevance to yours. That’s okay. Then again…maybe it does. Below is the whole day’s devotion. I hope it is clear enough for you.

 

 

Restart

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

I wore this T-shirt today (Sunday). Someone from the church picked it up for me since they know I absolutely love this movie. (And yes, I wear T-shirts to preach in on Sunday morning. I serve a church where wearing a tie usually means a funeral or a wedding).

Unless I miss my guess most of us have had a time or two or three where we have wished we could turn back the clock or travel back in time for a “do over.” I’m reminded of a song Jo likes to listen-“Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe. Well, as we all know we can’t hop in our DeLorean and travel back in time and change the course of history…our history. Sadly, we can’t get a “do over.”

But, in reality, life isn’t about “do overs.” Life is about what is ahead. Jo and I have been talking a lot lately about forgetting the past and looking ahead. We can’t change it but we can make a difference in the days to come. Craig Groeschel, in his new book Divine Direction says:

It’s not too late to change the story that you’ll tell one day. You can start something new. No matter how desperate, uncertain, afraid, or stuck you may feel right now, your story isn’t over. Page 28

At the end of Back to the Future 3, Marty and Jennifer are talking to Doc who has come back to 1985 in a train. When Jennifer shows Doc the picture and says something about their future, Doc says, “Nobody’s future has been written yet. So make it a good one…both of you.” He is both right and wrong. Our future is known by God. He orders our steps according to Proverbs. But since none of us know our future, we need to make it the best one we can. And to quote Craig again:

There is no better time to start writing your future story than right now. Page 46

That’s pretty good and solid advice. Taking a DeLorean seems easier. Just change it before it happens. But that is not going to happen. So start today and make it a good one…following the Father’s plan and steps.

Messy

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Well…I did it again.

NO…I DIDN’T HAVE ANOTHER BICYCLE ACCIDENT!

Saturday night I told Jo not to be surprised if I scrapped the sermon for something else. I felt God nudging me about it while I was studying. In fact, I almost went back to the office Saturday evening. I didn’t. But Sunday morning, in spite of the Daylight Savings Time shift, I was up and in my office and cranked out a sermon to preach.

I called it Messy Grace. It was a follow up to last week’s sermon when I opened up about my wilderness journey. I needed to  bring some closure to that sermon and “felt led” to address the issue of messy grace.

Sometimes grace is messy. Sometimes grace is rubbing shoulders with people who are not like us. Jud Wilhite, a pastor in LasVegas and the author of Stripped tells the story of a lady who said she was leaving the church because she didn’t like the type of people who were showing up and “you never know what you might get from those type of people.” I suspect God was more grieved over her comment than “those type of people” attending church.

Grace was extended to me by my family this past week. The people of OVCF extended grace to me by their texts, emails, comments, and phone calls. I’d like to close with this picture of a wall hanging Jo and I bought shortly after Christmas. Little did I know how much it would be appropriate to us.

Reason

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Daniel Hamlin and his family are five of the neatest people you will ever meet. They came to OVCF just a tad over a year ago in a search for something different than what he/they had grown up in. They were also concerned for their three children (one a teen and another real close and an adorable young girl). So he actually first heard of OVCF from living in the community about all his life, but when Daniel started searching with earnest his father told him about us. Daniel checked out the church website and then a few podcasts. Something resonated in him and a “chance” encounter with him at a local restaurant (we were supposed to eat somewhere else) led to him coming to OVCF. They have not left (that’s a good thing…a very good thing). He is a fine young man who wants to seek God with all his heart and wants to lead his family that way also. The following is what he posted on FB after helping with the Thanksgiving Dinner the church puts on annually.

Today, our church provided Thanksgiving meals to the community.  At one point my family was tasked with delivering 5 meals to a local low-income motel.  As we stepped out of the car I realized that we were probably not relatable to those who were receiving the food.  I had grabbed my LL Bean jacket, the boys were wearing Nike shoes and shorts (yes, shorts in November), we were a clean cut family.  One lady asked us to come in to her apartment.  After passing through the blanket that draped the door we enter her cluttered, dark apartment.  She had no kitchen table and had an aged container of Ramen noodles sitting on the stove.  We delivered her the prepared meal and she became emotional, expressing thanks for the food.  Amy asked her if she had any Christmas needs and she responded that she would like prayer for her son who suffers from scoliosis.

As I reflect back on this, it brings new appreciation for the Incarnation.  Just as I felt that our appearance would make us not relatable to those we were serving, if Jesus had come to earth in all of his power and glory we would not be able to relate to him.  Instead, he came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, was tested, tempted, beaten, suffered loss and eventually killed.  I’m thankful that because of God’s grace and his love for us, Christ made himself relatable by becoming human.

And that, my friends, is the reason for the season.

I would say Daniel has it right. Not only that…do you see any doubt he will be able to lead his family well? I don’t.

LIFE

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

I had planned on giving you an update of our Day of Service but LIFE has a way of throwing Clayton Kershaw curve balls at you. Yesterday (Monday) I was riding my bike about 2:30 in the afternoon. I had gotten a late start due to thngs at the office. I was a little over 4 miles away from the church building (where I keep my bike) when out of nowhere a speeding early model Ford Escape-like SUV decided to use me as a bumper car. It is so surreal-terrifying; anger for being hit and left; not sure what or if anything is broken; searching for your phone to take a picture then call 911; to watching a hematoma blow up to ungodly proportions on your hip; to spending 6 hours in an ER waiting for X-rays ; to being so sore & knowing tomorrow is going to hurt worse; to gratitude for friends close by & those far away (people you don’t even know) telling your daughters they are praying for their dad; to unlimited thanks to a good, good Father it was not worse-all go through my mind even as I write this.

I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received. This is one of a cyclist’s worst nightmare (paralysis being the worst) and tears roll down my cheeks as I write this out of gratitude for God’s grace & protection. I do hope they find the perpetrator-not for the purpose of revenge or medical bills help-but so he/she will NEVER do this again. People who leave scenes like this are cowards of the highest order. Did they do it on purpose? Did they hit me then realize it and run? Were they texting or playing with their phone or looking down? Did they realize what they did & run? Are they even aware of what they did? Questions which will probably go unanswered.

I may never know the answers to those questions. It bugs me but I am more concerned now with fellow cyclists who face the same cowardice & recklessness.

In the end, I’d appreciate your prayers for a full & complete recovery. Share the road folks. Cyclists have as much right to be on it as cars do. Stay alert while driving.