Grace

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#Forgiveness#Childhood/AdultTrauma

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my posts on Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World to do a far more enticing and exciting book. There is one thing for sure about old age: unless you write something down you are sure to forget it. It isn’t that earth-shattering but I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I saw this book for the first time. I don’t know if I was reading a book and it was mentioned, or was just passing by it on Amazon but I stopped, read the short blurb on it and decided to get it. Or I may have seen his book on The Uniform of Leadership, decided to buy it and saw this one right beside. No matter. 🙂  I just want to say one thing: GO BUY THIS BOOK!!

Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us

Jason Romano is with a Christian sports magazine called Sports Spectrum.  He also has a podcast that I have started listening to.   Before that he was involved behind the scenes at ESPN for close to 17 years. Before that he was an abused child-mostly verbally abused (never physically) by an alcoholic father.  It is quite a story.

I’m not going to tell you the nuts and bolts of the story. It is much too involved than I have time to get into here, but I will tell you that this is Jason’s story of struggling with his father’s alcoholism; his own response to it because of his Christian faith; and moving forward when those we love hurt us the most.

This is a FANTASTIC book for you or anyone you know who is struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you/them in the past by their behavior or even continuing to do so.  It took Jason lots of years to finally forgive his father and…well I can’t tell you how it changed things or if it did.  I guess you will have to read the book to find out.  🙂  Since I’m a sports fan, I enjoyed some of his stories of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden and their candid talk about their drug abuse and how it ruined their careers.  Both have found Christ and are doing their best to warn others of their path. But I want to make this clear: you do NOT have to be a sports fan to read this book.

I am buying an extra copy of this book to have in my office to hand out. I am that sold on this book.  By the way: have I told you that you ought to get a copy of this book and read it?  Warning: you may need some tissues handy.

#Legalism#Freedom

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”

#Grace#HassledHeart

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture before-maybe countless times-and not really read it?  You know…sort of mindless reading. Honestly, I have found myself doing that when reading parts of the OT.  I have in the past read through the Bible in a year several times. But I “cheated” when reading some of the more tedious passages-like Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy and some of the Prophets. Ezekiel was one of them. But one day I woke up as I was reading Ezekiel 34: 11-16. I was blown away and stunned by its beauty, power and all-encompassing picture of grace.  That grace is seen in so many ways, but I think it is especially seen in the one subject I think may plague more Christ-followers than anything else.

What topic is that? It is the one I’m going to be dealing with Sunday.

FORGIVENESS

That just might be the one subject Christ-followers are more fragile on than any other.  When you think about it, forgiveness actually has two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.  Forgiveness starts with vertical-our relationship with God. Then it moves to horizontal-our relationship with others.  So many try to get the latter right before the former is in place. We get it all wrong.

To show you the emptiness of the latter without the former taking place I want to tell you what happened to me the other day. I was in Circle K (a gas station/convenience store) and the cashier made a comment to me and really to all who were around. As I stepped up to pay she said, “There are 3 things that keep me going-caffeine, tobacco and resentment.” I said to her, “The latter two will kill you.” She repeated it to me like it was a badge of honor. So I did likewise-I repeated my warning.  I felt sad for her and wished she had a wise friend who could help her. 

My sermon Sunday is entitled Grace for the Hassled Heart.  You already know the Scripture and the focus. Now I’d like to ask you to pray for me and for us.  Thanks.

#NoPlaceToHide#Book Review

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

After reading I’ve Seen the End of You by surgeon Lee Warren, it was a no-brainer that I would read his first book, No Place to Hide.  I have to admit that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew about it was he was a surgeon in Iraq and had to deal with some PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome).  PTSD is very common in combat soldiers and it manifests itself in multiple ways. It is also found in accident victims-accidents of many different kinds. I was particularly interested because there are several men in the church I pastor who were in either Desert Storm or Iraq and suffer from PTSD, from mild to severe. A friend of mine has it due to watching his best friend die almost literally in his arms after a horrible accident involving a 90+ year old man ramming his car into several cyclists while on an MS ride.  (And he got off almost scot-free due to $$$$).

Here is my review of No Place to Hide:

I have never been in armed conflict. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War but was in Bible college so I was exempt. BTW: that was not why I went to Bible college. I was virtually illiterate about the news and Vietnam. I think my parents knew I would have been toast if I had signed up for the military because I could not find a job after my Freshman year in college and my uncle (un-brave soul that he was) took me to a recruiting station. My mom was contacted by the recruiter and she discouraged it.  Anyway, I have only read or listened to the horrors of that conflict as well as Desert Storm and the Iraqi invasion. To say my eyes were opened would be an understatement.  Lee was a brain surgeon with a successful practice but he received his papers to go to Balad Air Base for four months.  I will spare you the gory details but to say his time at Balad was a vacation would do him a great injustice. It would do all those who served in any capacity a great injustice.

While at Balad he was required to treat our military personnel, but also innocent Iraqi citizens, and our enemies, terrorist bombers included. The descriptions of what some of our personnel went through were enough to give me nightmares if I had allowed it. Innocent citizens punished for making a living by becoming translators or voting was enough to make my blood boil.  And to make it worse was for all medical personnel giving their best to save the suicide bombers and others responsible for much of the bloodshed on their own people was almost more than I could stand.  I just can’t understand that kind of hate, especially that which was done in the name of a “peaceful religion and God (Allah).”

I had to wait until close to the final 40 or so pages before Lee was discharged to read about the PTSD. While in Iraq his marriage fell apart (it was already heading there before deployment), and he came home broken and bruised, but missed greatly by his children.  It was after all of that and his marriage to Lisa that his PTSD hit him hard. I’m not going to go into detail about it. There is no need to. I’d just say, “Read the book.”

But I will tell you this: if you did not respect our men and women of the military before, you will after reading this book. It does not matter if they were in combat or a doctor in a field hospital, they went through horrendous conditions that I cannot fathom. Plan to be challenged. Plan to have your eyes opened. Plan to find respect for our military personnel. Plan to have tissues  handy. But also plan to see Dr. Warren give praise to God for bringing him out alive and able to minister as a top brain surgeon.

#Forgiveness#Friends#BackUp

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I have also posted this on my “Shadow” blog. Did you know I had another blog? It is a devotional blog I write in every day. I’d like to invite you to check it out here.

 

#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.