Grace

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#SpecialBlessing#Gift#Birthday

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I wrote this yesterday, June 3rd, while in Ohio. I did not have the opportunity to post it early and when I came to the office after getting home, the internet was down. (Thank you Comcast. It was down all over is what I heard). Anyway, I am posting this a day late but the sentiment is not any different.  Here is what I wrote:

45 years ago my life changed forever. Given that I’m only in my 50s you are probably thinking that is when I gave my life to Jesus and am celebrating that birthday.  You would be wrong. First, because I’m not in my 50s (I’m 67). Second, even though giving my life to Jesus was the most life-changing event of all, it was not that.

45 years ago today Tamra Jo was born around 9:45 p.m. at Akron General Hospital in Akron, OH. It had been a long day. A normal doctor appointment turned into a toxemia diagnosis which led us to the ER for immediate admittance to the hospital and an induction of labor.  That was about 11:00 a.m.  Around 8 that evening, after going through hours of labor (which Jo does not remember), they began to prep her for a C-section. Then the doctor came in and asked if it would be okay to hold off Jo’s surgery for an hour. The woman next door was trying to have her baby but the heartbeat was getting fainter.  Jo was out of it so I said, “Of course.”  The time finally arrived and he sent me to the waiting room (that was before men were allowed in the delivery room). He came out later to tell me, “Congratulations! You have a healthy baby.”  Me: “What is it?”  Him: “A girl. 7 lb 14oz.”  Me: “Oh.” Disappointed it was not a boy. But one look and that all changed. We only had boy’s names picked out so it took about 3 days for me to name her. (Jo was not thinking very clearly).

She has been a joy to have and raise.  Her heart has always sought God. She stood her ground in high school when a boy made a rude, crude remark to her one time. She hauled off and hit him and said, “Don’t you ever say that to me again.” That’s my girl! She changed her major in college 3 times (Athletic trainer, TV production, teacher). The latter has been her profession for 22 years. After living in Knoxville on her own for 15 years, she moved to Spencer to be closer to her aging parents 🙂 and her nephew. The latter hasn’t panned out as she had hoped but it has been nice to have her close. She may not be a mother (never married) but Jo put it well this past Mother’s Day: She is a mom to 20+ kids every year.

Best thing? Her heart still beats for God. And she still loves us!! How’s that for great?  🙂 Happy Birthday Tami. I love you more than you know.

 

#Different#GraceNeeded

Monday, June 1st, 2020

I’m in Ohio for the first part of this week so I will say right up front that I wrote this Saturday night. Sunday has not happened yet (obviously) 🙂   So as I write this I have no idea what tomorrow (Sunday) will bring. I am cautiously optimistic since that tends to be my nature.  But here is what I wrote Saturday night:

Costi Hinn is Bennie’s nephew. Several years ago he broke away from the health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel Bennie preaches (and still does) to follow Jesus. In a recent blog he wrote, Costi wrote the following (referring to navigating the COVID-19 crisis and getting back to assembling together:

If there is one word to describe how we must navigate re-assimilation it’s this: grace.

I can see that. Even among the three of us (Ryan, Diana, and me) we have different ideas. I’m more eager to get back together and if I had my druthers go full bore. I agree with the man in my congregation who said, “Bill, I am so tired of hearing certain words: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer (and others I can’t remember).” Even though Jim is in a highly volatile business (grocery store), I can’t argue.  Ryan is tired of the whole mess and has seen his plans for the summer go up in smoke and new ones will have to be developed. Diana is the cautious one of the three. Always has been. But we agree to disagree and move on. We worked on putting a plan in place we all agreed on and we will continue doing that.

  • I am the spur ahead, but sometimes careful, optimist.
  • Ryan is the contemplative direction (he likes spreadsheets) and thinking things through logically guy.  🙂
  • Diana is the cautious realist. (She is female after all).

Blend all three together and you have our reopening plan. We need all kinds of people and grace is needed.  I haven’t always liked the slow moving but it is necessary to tone me down. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I probably irritated the two of them somewhere along the way.  I despise the idea of wearing a mask and social distancing.  Our people spoke through the survey we sent out and so in deference to them I will do what needs to be done.  Oh yeah, and the governor of Indiana, whom I respect for the way he has tried to handle this mess.  🙂

Here’s what Costi says:

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life.
  2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life.
  3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective.
  4. People matter more than my opinion.

So…what will it be? Grace or bull-headedness?

“Father, help me to choose grace, to choose love over my own desires and wisdom.”

Note: I have also posted this on my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

#Anniversary#Celebration#Honored

Monday, April 20th, 2020

I took a break last week from posting on this blog except for the sermon. After posting on two blogs for over a month, a break was needed. Something happened yesterday that I wanted to share.

April 13th is a day that has significance to me.  On April 13, 1932 my mother was born. She went to be with Jesus in March of 2004. So when April 13th came this year, I thanked God for her influence in my life and then moved on. I am not a real sentimental person on things like that.

But something else happened on April 13th. To honor her in one of the biggest ways I could think of, April 13, 1975 was the day I chose for my ordination into the ministry. I had been preaching since I was a Sophomore in college (1972) but that was my official day of being licensed as a pastor. I had heard of it while in college but I didn’t like the reasons some of them did it: to be an official pastor which basically gave them a free ride on Vietnam. I can also remember my mom telling me not to become a pastor because of the respect and “fame” and honor given to clergy. Back then, pastors were seen as upright and worthy of respect. (My how times have changed!)  Anyway, when I saw how some acted and talked and chased woman, I didn’t want to move too fast on this idea of being ordained (not that I did those things). I wanted it to be an occasion where I knew what I was doing and was serious about my calling.  As I reflect on those ideas today, I’m not sure I knew either! What I did know is that it was a big step for me.

So on April 13, 1975 I chose to honor my mother, whose influence on my faith is unquestioned, by being ordained on her birthday. Besides, as I got older I figured it would be easier to remember one date instead of two. Remembering Jo’s birthday and my two daughters was hard enough.  I’ve never made a big deal about special days in my life, except for my wedding date (which I am trying to remember…oh yeah, June 16, 1973) and the birth of my girls (June 3, 1975 and August 23, 1979).  Let’s see…mine is…oh yeah, October 9, 1952.  And I hereby refuse to publish Jo’s birthday since I value my life.  But trust me when I say she is a tad bit older than me, like from January 30, 1951 compared to mine. (But please don’t tell her I said anything! I love my life!!)

But I digress. Yesterday during the virtual morning worship, I welcomed people to the worship and moved away from the pulpit to let the first song play. It wasn’t the one I picked and looked up and it was a slide show Tami had put together honoring my 45th anniversary of ordination. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. To say I walked away to gather my emotions before standing before the people again might (not) be a lie. Anyway, I was honored and humbled she put this together. And I was especially honored folks responded.  It was hard to see via the FB worship so she has posted it on YouTube. It was public at first but she is taking it private. You have the extreme privilege (I’m humble too) to be given the link to watch it.  Here is the link. Hope you enjoy it. And yes, you will notice two people missing from it: Jo and Janna (my youngest).  Least Tami still loves me. 🙂

I have so many people to thank for 45+ years.  But most of all, I want to give praise, glory and honor to the ONE who called me into this high calling. He has been a beautiful picture of grace, forgiveness, patience, and transformation through all of this. And thank you Tami for doing this (she was last one).

#Lent#27

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

I have said in the past, “I was saved by grace; I am being saved by grace; and in the end I will be saved by grace.” Paul put it this way: “This grace by which I stand.” (Rom.5:2)

You see, the whole idea of salvation relates to the past, the present, and the future. Using what I said earlier, I could say, “I have been saved; I am being saved; I will be saved.”

Take the death of Jesus. His death saved; His death saves; His death will save. He paid for all sins of the past. He paid for all sins today so I can know I am saved and secure in His grace. He paid for me to know my future home is waiting, kept in heaven for me. 

I’m rejoicing this Easter season that even though there is a quarantine (2020) that will keep us from meeting publicly as a body, nothing can damper the promise of forgiveness of sin-past, present, and future. His shed blood is a stamp guaranteeing eternity for me. And it can be for you as well.

#Lent#7

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Grace. That is the theme of two very important events: the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus.

The birth of Jesus is a picture of grace. More specifically, His lineage. I’m sure you have heard the analysis of the women in His lineage. If not, here it is:

  • Tamar- played the prostitute with Judah to have a child.
  • Rahab- was a prostitute who saved the spies.  She became the mother of Boaz.
  • Ruth- a Gentile who married Boaz and became the great grandmother of David.
  • Bathsheba- an adulteress the mother of Solomon.
  • Mary- the mother of Jesus. A virgin, yes, but not sinless. One of us.

PURE GRACE.

The death of Jesus is also a picture of grace.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say it was grace in action.  Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.”  Who of us can say we deserved that kind of love?  None of us. But that kind of love is grace in action. The King dying on a cross He didn’t deserve, for someone like me, who didn’t deserve that display of love. As the old hymn says, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene/And wonder how he could love me a sinner condemned unclean/ O how marvelous, O how wonderful and my song shall ever be/ O how marvelous, O how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.”

GRACE. PURE GRACE.

#Lent#6

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading The Creaking on the Stairs by Mez McConnell.  It is subtitled “Finding Faith in God through Childhood Abuse.” I have to admit I was sickened and angered by his stepmother’s treatment of him (and his handicapped sister), and the lack of compassion , even laughter, displayed by the so-called adults she surrounded herself with. The book is about him coming to grips with a God of love, grace, and forgiveness. It is his journey from childhood abuse; to teenage bullying and rebellion; to a life of drugs and crime; to prison; to eventual salvation, fatherhood and being a pastor.

Lots stuck out to me…this being one of the sharpest:

Jesus came for victims. For the helpless. For the abused. For the lost. For the wayward. For those without a voice. For those who’ve faced injustice. For those who’ve known only pain and hurt.  For the abuser. For the oppressor. For the violent. For the murderers. For the rapists. For the paedophiles. For those who have caused only pain and hurt.

For broken people like me.

For broken people like you.

For broken people like them.

(The above quote was taken from page 168)

It’s the you that got to me. Mez was including himself in the “me.” He was including me in the “you.” He is including us all.

We are all sinners before a holy God.  I. AM. A. SINNER. BEFORE. A. HOLY. GOD.

You need the cross. I. NEED. THE. CROSS.

 

#Lent#5

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

In my years as a pastor I have heard more than once (okay often) people say, “I figure as long as my good deeds outweigh my bad ones, I’m good to go.” They are, of course, presuming several things: their good deed will outweigh they bad; and two, God operates that way.

News Flash!! NOPE.

For one, our good will never outweigh our bad.  What part of “There is none righteous, no, not one” do they not understand?  What part of “By grace are you saved by faith.  And this is not your own doing;  it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast” do they not understand?

We are not saved because our good deeds “outstack” our bad ones. We are not saved because there is any merit in what we do. There is no balancing act. The reality is this: one sin throws the whole scale off.  We are not judged-weighed- on good vs bad deeds.  We are judged on only one thing: have we come to Jesus and had our sins washed away by His blood. Nothing more; nothing less.  So don’t waste your time looking in the mirror at your deeds and do the comparison game.  It won’t work; it won’t matter.

#MonsterQuote#HearIt!!#Review

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

I just finished reading a really interesting book called A War of Loves by David Bennett.  It is subtitled The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus. 

Question: What would it mean for an atheist gay activist to become a Christian?

Good question. No…great question. One David answers fully. At 14, he came out to his parents. At 19, he encountered Jesus Christ. At this moment his life changed forever. But…and this is key…that change did not happen overnight.  This book is his journey…and a well-traveled and documented journey it is. Throughout the 250+ pages of this book you will ride the highs and lows with him. You will tear up (your eyes); you will want to tear him up due to some of his actions and reactions (to the Bible when his mother read it to him after his moment of salvation, for example).  You will travel with him to France and his native Australia as he seeks God and more education. You will identify with his sin struggles (not necessarily his homosexuality, but sin that lingers).  And you will find your heart and mind stretched as he “fleshes” out his beliefs and his faith.

Some might wonder why I am recommending this book, and for those who don’t know, why I am reading so much on this topic and have more in my cue).  The little town of Spencer has a very active, and at times militant, PRIDE group led by a young man (as in according to my age) who was raised in the local Nazarene church but now identifies as an atheist. And yes, that breaks my heart. I want to know how to reach him with Jesus.

This did not start out to be a book review nor an endorsement…although it has turned out to be both. I wrote down several quotes in my Moleskine and want to share just one of them. I plan to use the others in future posts.

If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.  John Stott- quoted on page 123

What Mr. Stott says is true. No matter the topic or thought. We should not come to God’s Word with our minds made up or with preconceived ideas and then look for proof. No….we read and allow its words to become our standard. To quote Bennett: “God does not discriminate, but He calls believers of all kinds to a standard.” (quote from p.242)

I’d like to recommend you read this book, not for fodder, but for a better understanding of the “gay” mindset if we are ever to reach them with our friendship and with the Gospel. You will also deeply appreciate his two appendices.

A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

#Quote#Darkness

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Quite honestly I have never been one to listen to sermons or podcasts while I drive. I don’t know if you would say I am a typical male or whether it is just me, but I have trouble doing two things at one time.  Even reading more than one book at a time is hard, especially if I find one of them more interesting than the other. So I tend to be a “one-tasker” (as opposed to multi-tasker).  Driving and listening to a sermon is not on my radar for obvious reasons. Hint: you have to think while listening.

But lately I have found a couple podcasts I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to. One is Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership podcast, as well as Craig Groeschel’s. Another is Hole in my Heart with Laurie Krieg. Her husband, Matt, and friend, Steve, often join her. I have personally met Matt & Laurie and had them as our weekend guests here at OVCF. Laurie has what she calls “broken sexuality” (Same Sex Attraction). But her podcast has not focused on that alone. She did have one guest whom I really enjoyed listening to concerning his SSA but also his conversion to Christ. A recent guest, Sheridan Voysey, talked about the struggle he and his wife had with infertility.  It was during a “side road” Laurie took Sheridan on that he said something I wrote down (after I got back to the office).

This very darkness you are going through and your waiting and hungering and hoping for that new birth or rebirth, God can be doing things under the surface without you even realizing it, which is all part of Him making you who He called you to be.

I sent that to someone I know who is going through a really tough time right now. Short thought: nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy. His plan is sometimes curvy; sometimes uncomfortable; sometimes painful; but always with purpose.

I leave this quote with you for your perusal. If you care to comment, I’d love to hear what you think.

#Control#ShownMercy

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

I have come to the conclusion that much of the Christian life is one of control. Who controls whom? For example, I was speaking to someone this past week and we were talking about legalism. I made a statement I firmly believe in: many pastors/teachers/leaders use legalism as a way to control their people. I know when I was very legalistic in my outlook and preaching it was my way of controlling people. I wouldn’t have called it that. I would have called it “loving words from your pastor.” But in reality, I and others like me, used a legalistic approach to keep people “under my thumb.” Grace changed that for me. But it still happens. How many pastors do you know who tell their people “You better” or “If you don’t” or “If you do” in order to keep their flock in the sheepfold and not wander out at night?  So we make dress, church attendance, hair styles, tattoos, etc a way to judge a person’s “Christian” witness.

But consider this if you will: We are not meant to control our Christianity; Christianity is meant to control us. (I read that recently but can’t remember, where so I’m sorry for the failure to give credit).  So many in our culture might say they embrace Jesus but they want to conform Jesus and His teachings to their lifestyle. I think it should be the other way around: Jesus should inform us on how to conduct our lives and how to treat others. His teachings ought to transform us rather than trying to bend the teachings to fit us.  We are, after all, told to “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service of worship.” Then we are told “not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That sounds a whole like surrender to me, of giving up control to someone else.

There is only one Person who should control our lives. Not us. Not a pastor. Not a leader. Not a teacher. Not a (fill in the blank). Only Jesus.  ONLY. JESUS.