Grace

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Pardon?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

My grandfather used to say, when someone would say something to him that he did not hear (he worked in a steel mill as a welder all his life), “Pardon?” I was taught to say, “Excuse me?” or “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.” That’s a whole lot different than the “Huh?’ or “Wha-a-a-t?” we often hear today. Okay, off rabbit trail and back to original thought. Pardon. We hear about pardons being granted to criminals, or even every day “Joe’s” by people. It’s not always easy to offer that.

In this post I mentioned reading a book called Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. What an excellent book!  He tells the story of a man named George Wilson who pled guilty to several counts of robbery and “endangering the life of a mail driver” and apparently it was serious enough to merit the death penalty. Wilson was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson chose to issue Wilson a full pardon, but Wilson, for reasons we will probably never know, refused to accept it. In United States v. Wilson, 1833, the Supreme Court issued its verdict saying (in essence), “If the pardon is rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.”

Seems strange to me that a man would reject a pardon which exonerated him, but also set him free. Seems strange to me why people would reject the pardon offered by God which would exonerate a person of their sin, and at the same time set them free. In my mind, the choice is a no-brainer.

Strange indeed.

Suicide

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Warning. Spoiler Alert. This is not going to be a fun post to read. Or write for that matter.  This is not a fun subject, a joking matter, or something to be taken lightly. Everyone of us has probably, in some way, been touched by suicide. Either we are survivors of it (those left behind) or we know someone who has threatened suicide or someone who died of suicide.  As a pastor I would love to say it has never touched a church I have pastored or affected someone in the church. I could give you statistics but that would belabor it.  Because I am a pastor, and because I want to reach out to the survivors, I felt a definite need to “read up” on it. I feel God definitely led me to a book called Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu. A few months after his wedding, Dr. Hsu’s father took his life. No doubt depression played a major part in his father’s actions after a major stroke three months earlier.

What makes this book so helpful is his personal involvement in it. It is not a clinical “this-is-what-is-wrong-with-people” approach. Nor is it a book which condemns people to hell who take their life (I won’t do that either). What I especially liked about the book is it can be read and understood by the common person. Like me. I have no visions of grandeur about my intelligence. I like things simple. Dr. Hsu does that. He doesn’t back down from the hard questions but neither does he get heavy-handed. The ones who won’t like this book are those looking for proof of condemnation. If you are one of those, go looking at the comics. I prefer not to cross swords or paths with you.

Here is one example of down-to-earth teaching: there is some discussion about the use of terms-committed suicide vs  completed suicide. I have always use the former but there is someone in the church who uses the latter. His thoughts? Survivor’s react against the former saying it sounds criminal. I’ll grant that now. The latter, he says, “sounds like a laudatory accomplishment…It comes across as somewhat clinical and cold.” (p.169)  His suggestion? “My dad died from suicide” or “my dad took his own life.”  He also recoils against describing suicide as “successful.” (p.170).

I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It is also interspersed with excellent and informative items like “Warning Signs of Suicide”; “Facts About Suicide”; and others. It is helpful if you are a survivor and are looking for help, and it is helpful if you want to help someone. Check out the right sidebar of my blog for more information on the book.

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope

Astounded

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

I have moments where I am totally astounded by God. They may come in different ways.

Hearing a song.

Participating in worship.

Listening to someone tell how God intervened in his/her life.

Watching a life being changed only by the grace of God.

Through the laughter and love of little Sophia (Jo & I are mamaw Jo and grandpa Bill) even though not related.

Through the love of a wife who continues to astound me with her grace toward me.

I could go on. But none astound me as much as God. Each day I awaken to new mercies. Each day I awaken to a new sunrise (eventually), new sights, new beginnings, new awareness, new direction, new hope. Again…I could go on.

But I am most astounded by the unconditional love and grace of a God who blesses me with more than I certainly deserve. In about an hour and a half we will enter into our corporate worship. I will sing praises. I will preach His Word. And I will anticipate being astounded by God. It is fitting that this song be the one I choose for this week. I hope it will speak to your heart and set your mind right for the week.  The words are easily understood but if you do have difficulty, they are included in the video description (hit SHOW MORE).

MAY GOD LEAVE YOU ASTOUNDED TODAY. MAY HE LEAVE YOU AMAZED THIS WEEK.

EvenIf

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

This past Friday Jo and I drove to Ohio to see our daughter, son-in-law and Braden, our grandson. It had been since Christmas and we needed our “Braden fix.” I am also keenly aware that there will soon come a day when Grandpa and Mamaw will not be the people we are now…you know…someone to look forward to seeing. So I/we want to take advantage of that now.

Last weekend probably the closest lady friend Jo has in the church took her to see MercyMe in concert at Lafayette. Linda bought her the ticket for Christmas; Tami paid for her 1/2 of the hotel room; and I saved money for her to eat and spend however she wanted to. She had a blast and was thoroughly impressed by MM. So…on our way to Ohio we listened to their CD. It included the song you will have a chance to listen to.

I’ll be honest: I cannot listen or watch this song without tears in my eyes. While I don’t sing, I stand before people week after week as “God’s spokesman.” I’m supposed to have it all together. But what if I don’t? What if I’m struggling with my trust? Can I echo the sentiments of this song?  One thing for sure: this song kicks in the teeth of the health-wealth people who say God is going to make everything okay. G-r-r-r-r-r.

Anyway, enjoy the song. Let it minister to you today, this week. Pass it along to someone who needs to hear it.  For the backstory behind the song, listen to this.

VDay

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know today is Valentine’s Day. If you couldn’t tell by the stores, you have to be blind. I’m thinking VD cards were out the day after Christmas. 🙂  Seriously, it is a day which has new meaning to me.

I’m not sure how many of you reading this knows of the significance of this week for me. This coming Friday will be the one year (dubious) anniversary of my bike wreck in which I broke my collarbone, broke 3 ribs (I hope you never have to experience that), did a face plant, split my helmet in three places, ruined several pieces of cycling clothing when it had to be cut off by the paramedics, and almost checked out and met the Father.

It happened on a Friday.  The first Sunday back in the pulpit (two weeks later) I talked to the people about my spiritual state at the time of the accident. To borrow Paul David Tripp’s words: I was a spiritual amnesiac.  I was not in a good place. My marriage was limping along. Not because of any affair, unless you consider my affair with my job as legitimate.  The wreck was the best thing that happened to me. God got my attention. Sure, I wish He had used a softer means but, would I have heard? I don’t think so. After all, getting hit by the car in November should have been a warning sign.

I can honestly say I love Jo more today than many yesterdays. We no longer take each other for granted. We are more open and honest with each other than we have probably ever been. Neither one of us wants our relationship to go back to where it was one year ago. Today is Valentine’s Day. And I love my better half, and will forever how much longer we have together on this earth.

 

Covered

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

I am, if the truth be known, an eclectic listener of music. I can jump from Tommy James and Frankie Valli to rock to melodic metal to worship music to classical. There are certain kinds I won’t listen to (country, rap, R&B, and opera to name a few).  Personal preference I know. That is why there are so many genres I suppose.

Last week during our worship music set we sang the following song. I heard it about a year ago sung by a high school student who was worshiping with us before she shipped out to the military.  We have since sung it with our worship team.  I LOVE this song!  If it wasn’t for Good, Good Father, it just may be my favorite.

This is my song of the week. My prayer is it will be meaningful start to your week.  It is a little long in this version but we have shortened it.

 

Tested

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

In last week’s sermon I talked about True Love. You can read more about it here. But you know as well as I do talking about love, defining love, does not a lover make. The real test of love is when love is put to the test.

Despite all our learning or lack of it; despite all our high-falootin’ talk or lack of it; despite our rhetoric or lack of it; everyone one of us knows we will not get along with everyone. Wishful thinking. Dream thinking. “Not possible” thinking actually. “Ain’t going to happen” thinking.  Yeah…I hate to be the one to burst the bubble, but we will not be able to get along with everyone.

So…how do we keep the peace?

So…what do we do with enemies? With those who want to make our life miserable? In fact, that seems to be their mission in life. How are we supposed to act and react to our enemies?

My sermon this weekend will get down to that nitty-gritty. When you have been abused, walked on, used as a doormat or a ladder, had lies told about you, or have been stolen from…what to do? How would love respond?

Romans 12: 14-21 is not an easy passage to deal with but it can’t be skipped over either. I’d appreciate your prayers for this weekend.

I’m posting this early because Jo and I will be heading to Evansville, IN to see one our young men play one of his last two games in Indiana (Saturday is the other). He graduates from Maryville College in St. Louis this year. So we will be out and about and I will be away from a computer. I’ll have my phone to approve comments, but I despise typing anything of length on my phone. Have a great weekend!

Father

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

A lot has been written about our earthly father and his influence upon our lives. You know…

“I am who I am today because of my father.” (Positive)

“I am who I am today because of my father.” (Negative)

“My father’s example was one I wanted to emulate.”

“My father’s example was not one I wanted to emulate.”

“I desire to raise my children the same way my father raised me.”

“I desire to raise my children differently than my father raised me.”

I could go on and on. Many people who are much smarter and wiser than me have said, “Your view of God is very often tied to your view of your earthly father.” In my case, I concur. Conditional love and acceptance. AWOL at times. Preoccupied with other things. I could go on but this is not a body slam on my late father.

I know some, many who have come to see me in my office or at a meal, who have screamed for a father who loved them. “What was wrong with me?” “Why couldn’t he just love me the way I was?” “Why did he try to live his life through me?” The litany goes on. Little girls especially need their father to be more than a biological necessity.

During Pastor Appreciation Month (which is also my birthday month) our worship leaders had this wood hanging made for me. I treasure it. I have it displayed on a table in my office. It just might be the first thing people see when they walk by or enter.

The song I’m highlighting today is one of my favorites from which this plague comes. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Shameless

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

It is called Shameless Promotion.

And so it is. I have another post coming out tomorrow morning for the weekend and wanted to fill in today so I thought, “Why not?”

Theology without love is simply bad theology.

To read the rest of this devotion, please head over to my other blog based on New Morning Mercies called Be Transformed.

I’d love to see you over there and hear your thoughts.

Religion

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

One of the values of my new blog, Be Transformed,  is the emphasis it places on grace. Actually, since it focuses on the daily devotions found in New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, it is really only fair to say NMM places an emphasis on grace. I do invite you to join me there-not only in the discussion but also in the daily reading.

But this post is not a plug for Be Transformed.  It may appear that way, but it really isn’t. However…  🙂  Back in October I read a devotion by Derwin Gray called A Never-Ending Climb. I thought it was really good so I clipped it for future use. I saw it again today and decided it was a good one to use today:

Religion, or works-based righteousness, paints a picture of a god sitting atop a high peak, waiting for us to scale the mountain through our good behavior or adherence to religious principles. The more “good” we do the closer we come to approaching our god. If we do something bad, however, the god on top of the mountain turns Zeus-like and throws a lightning bolt to strike us and knock us back down the mountain. After the electric shock wears off and our singed hair stops smoking, we dust ourselves off, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and start the long trek all over again.

Long story short: the trek of works-based righteousness is a never-ending hill climb. One step up and two back. That to me is what religion is like. To give another picture it is like the hamster in the wheel. “‘Round and ’round it goes, where it stop nobody knows.”

Get off the treadmill. Be done with works-based religion. Get on the GRACE track.