April, 2018

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Different

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

I’m taking a different tack this post. It has been my practice since the first of this year to post a song and often a video of that song to help you start your week out right and hopefully give you something to sing along the way. I’m doing something different this week.

This past Thursday I was the guest of The Connection-A Community Church and their two pastors, Charles Townsend and James Owens, on their podcast. The Connection is only a couple of years old and we have become friends. I see them as very dear friends and also great allies in the desire to see Spencer come to know Jesus. Except for a few minor details (they are Calvinists and I am not)  🙂  we are brothers in this battle.

I’d like to invite you to join in listening to the podcast. Many of you have wanted to know more about me (and some could care less… 🙂 ) and this podcast will give you a good insight into me and my heart. We laugh a lot so don’t expect a totally serious listen. Just an informative one.  Here is the link to the podcast.  When/if you listen would you mind  coming back to comment and let me know what you think? James also gives their website for you to comment.

Oh…thanks for listening.

Finishing

Friday, April 27th, 2018

One of the things I want to do is finish well.

I can remember as a kid growing up my parents would say, “Finish what you start.” Quitting was not an option.  When I was in 8th grade I joined the Model Airplane Club. I had a friend who was in it and talked me into it. I had about as much business being in that club as I belong on a catwalk. (I was looking for an extreme). I’m not very detail-oriented and certainly not in “fine” things like cutting balsa wood and building airplanes which are supposed to fly. But I wasn’t allowed to drop out of the class because I had to “finish what I started.”

Paul compares the life of the Christ-follower as a race. The writer of Hebrews talks about “looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” The race we are in is a marathon not a sprint. It is a long-distance run. It is a race which requires endurance and a constant battle against discouragement.

My final sermon in the True North series is “Finishing Well” this Sunday. This will be a good way to wrap up the series and bring closure. Thanks for your prayers.

Why?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

I’m reading a book right now called Notes from the Valley by Pastor Andy MCquitty,  subtitled “A Spiritual Travelogue Through Cancer.” No…I don’t have cancer that I know of. But so many people whom I love and care about do. Andy is no different than “regular” people. Just because he is a pastor does not mean he did not ask the same questions other do.  Many people expect pastors to be “above others.” They don’t want a pastor who is better than them or thinks he is better than them. They don’t want a pastor who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to.

But…

They also expect him to be above the fray. You know… he should never ask or question God.  He should have perfect faith. Never a doubt. Never a fear. Never a raised voice in anger toward God.

May I let you in on something? Get your head out of the sand! I put my pants and shirt on the same way you do.  As much as I wish I could sometimes, I don’t tear open the buttons of my shirt (sort of hard since I wear t-shirts so often) to reveal a Captain America logo. Or a giant “S.”  I/pastors have feelings just like you. Just like your cancer-ridden friend.  Just like your friend whose parent’s mind is being ravaged by dementia or Parkinson’s. Just like you when you have heard of another friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. Or a baby born with physical problems.

Just like you Pastor Andy asked, “Why?” “Why me and not him?” Just like you your pastor struggles with having answers to unanswerable questions.

And just like you I am sometimes astonished God answers a prayer when I least expect it or in a way that is not on my radar. What prompted this post? Several things. I’ve already told you about my friends. But I also have been reading in Acts as I read through my ESV Reader’s Bible and read the story today of Peter’s release from prison by the angel. He goes to a house where they are praying for him and the servant girl is so astounded she leaves him outside. When she tells the people praying they say, “No way. No. No. No.” (my version). And when she convinces them to take a look they are astonished God answered their prayer. I chuckle at that. Not because of their lack of faith, but because “been there done that.” (Full story in Acts 12:6-19)

So ask “Why?” Go ahead. Ask away. He will not turn a deaf ear. But let it lead you to the One who can answer it.  But I have also learned there is a better question to ask. Instead of why, the better question is “What now? How do you want me to respond?”

Belonging

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Everyone wants to belong to something. To be included. No one wants to be an outcast. Loner. Bullied. Called “different.”

This past weekend Jo attended a Ladies Retreat at the church camp we send our kids. She was telling me about hearing a fantastic workshop speaker.  This woman has had CP all her life and has struggled with fitting in. Bullied for her “difference.” But someone loved her and accepted her and showed her Jesus. During her workshop she asked the ladies to listen to a song. Jo played it for me last night. I like what it says so I am including it here for you to listen to.  It is a new song and a new group to me, but the words spoke volumes. I’ve included two versions here for you:

One of just the video.

One with the lyrics in case you have difficulty understanding the words.

It is important to remember that everyone matters to God.  Keep that in mind as you make your way through the week. Keep an eye out for the wounded one. The one no one wants to be around. The one who people look away from. I know I’m praying I do a better job of that myself.

 

Anchor

Friday, April 20th, 2018

We all face seemingly insurmountable odds from time to time. Some more than others. But when we are in those periods that want to overwhelm us, we need an anchor-Someone or something to cling to. Given the way things just up and disappear or rust away or disintegrate, I believe the SOMEONE is a better anchor.

This final True North sermon from Hebrews 11 (next week’s is from Hebrews 12:1-3) takes in a laundry list of people whose faith was evident, even though it might have been weak at the get-go. Gideon. Barak. Samson. Jephthah. Names which are not really household names. Okay, maybe Gideon and Samson are the more familiar ones, but the other two? I’m thinking 9 out of 10 would not know who they were (and in some circles 10 out of 10).

Paul states in 2 Cor.12 that “God’s grace is sufficient in all things. When I am weak, He become strong.” That is the underlying thought for this week’s message: God is sufficient. He empowers the weak to be strong (the aforementioned biblical characters). He also sustains the weak to be strong. Elijah. Elisha. Followers of Christ who refuse to recant their faith in Christ, even in spite of the persecution, possible torture and imprisonment, and death.

This series is coming to a close next week. It will be good to talk about God’s part in being an anchor when our faith is rocked. I’d appreciate your prayers for this weekend. Thanks ahead of time.

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.

Relief

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Welcome to my Sunday meanderings.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes things just seem to pile up?  We have those seasons when stuff happens, in spades. Not every once in awhile but what seems like an onslaught. As many of you have experienced, it isn’t just one thing; it is a myriad of things.

Cancer diagnosis in friends. (A complication in one came in while I was showering this morning).

Marriages falling apart.

Deaths of friends and the funerals which follow (3 in the last month).

A three-week old baby requiring open heart surgery.

A host of other “beat downs.”

Plus one very tired pastor who needs a break (which is coming).

I’m preaching about HOPE this morning. Hope in a forever home. Good thing I believe in that. If my hope is not connected to forever, my hope will somehow die.  For hope to be hope it must carry with it the promise that all which is broken will be repaired, and that it will remain repaired forever.

I’m glad I have Someone to lean on. If I didn’t I don’t know how I would handle this onslaught right now.  Maybe that is why I have chosen two songs for this week. They are throwbacks. The singer is Mark Farner, former lead singer for Grand Funk. His conversion is a great story but his music is timeless. His lyrics are clear so you shouldn’t have any trouble listening and understanding. So check out this song then go to this one.

Have a great week bolstered (as I am and will be) by the truth I serve an amazing God who understands.

HomewardBound

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Just as there are certain events that affect our lives, and we know what we were doing and where we were when they happened, words or statements are the same.

9/11

“President Kennedy has been shot” (for those old enough)

“President Reagan has been shot”

“Houston, we have a problem.”

Precise timing and movements were needed to make sure Apollo 13 made it home. One mistake and the capsule and astronauts would be doomed to outer space. Getting them home was a priority.

For some reason many don’t like to talk about the future. I’m not talking about future events (Rapture, 666, etc).  For me as a Christ-follower I like to talk about my future. It is secure.  I know that because of God’s promise, but I also know that because of hope. Properly focused hope gives us the assurance of a home for eternity.  Now…I’m not talking about the “I hope it is nice weather tomorrow” or “I hope he/she smiles at me.” No, the hope I am talking about goes much deeper.

Take away hope and you take away a reason for living. In the case of the Christ-follower, if our hope is not connected to forever, our hope will somehow die. Living with forever in view gives us an unshakeable reason for hope.

My sermon Sunday is called Homeward Bound. I’m using Hebrews 11:11-16, 32-40 as my passage. Come join us or listen online or if you are too far away, please say a prayer for me and the folks at OVCF. Thanks.

And speaking of Homeward Bound, today, April 13th marks the birthday of my late mother. She would have been 86. She’s home.

Understand?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

I’ve said here before in my blog that I lack some things. One of those is “super intelligence.” I am not a deep-thinker by nature and often get bored when the subject goes deeper than a) I want to go and b) I am able to understand. People will ask me questions which “go beyond my pay grade” i.e. beyond my ability to understand and explain. There are certain mysteries I accept without feeling like I have to have a PhD to “sign off” on.

One of those is God. I am often asked hard questions, at least hard ones for me. I can’t say I have ever had one of those “dark nights of the soul” where I questioned everything I have ever been taught and came out on the other side more convinced than ever of what I believe. My “dark night” (no not Batman) is more related to having questions about suffering, and why things happen that I don’t have an answer to or see no sense in.

I’m currently reading a book by J.D.Greear called Not God Enough. While it is different from my normal fare, it has been a great book. An understandable book (for me). I’m almost 100 pages into this 200+ page book and I’m finding some good, thought-provoking stuff. Perhaps the best way to describe its approach is to use his opening statement of Chapter 1:

A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped. Evelyn Underhill

There is no way “under God’s green earth” that I can or will ever understand God, what makes Him tick (except His love for me), or how He operates.  But the good thing is I don’t have to!! I often tell people it is okay to have doubts. True, doubt can drive you backward into disbelief, but it can also drive you forward into real faith. 

I will never understand all there is to know about God (nobody can). All I know is I believe He is who He said He is. He is the great I AM (as He told Moses). And for that, I make no apologies, nor do I need any letters after my name.

Image

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

There is no doubt we live in an image-conscious world. Fat-shaming. Body-shaming. All kinds of shaming going on. Cyber bullying has become a pastime for many. Plastic surgeons are in high demand to fix this, tuck this, remove this, do this, do that.

Whatever happened to Psalm 139: 13-16 and the reality it teaches? Before you jump all over me, I agree we ought to take care of ourselves. I don’t cycle and lift weights for nothing. But to body-shame someone because they don’t meet “our standard” of loveliness is just downright wrong. Sinful even. And to feel less than beautiful because of someone else’s standards is not right either.  Because of back surgery I am limited in what I can do for my core muscles. I was not allowed to do anything for almost 3 months. My stomach is not as flat, toned and defined as it once was. But that hasn’t stopped someone from commenting about it. I laugh it off but what would that do to someone who was less confident or didn’t know the uphill battle I face trying to find ways to exercise?

That is why this song was so insightful to me this past week.  If you have trouble with the lyrics I have included the lyric video of the song here.  I hope this helps set your week on a good path.