#LessonsfromaShadow

Written by cycleguy on March 14th, 2021

Yesterday I preached on the Shadow of the Cross. In my last post, I mentioned there were 6 lessons from a book I planned to use during the sermon and then I was going to post here.  I’d like to share three here and then three in the next post.

#1- The shadow of the cross teaches us who we are. The cross should and must humble us. Very few of us look at ourselves with humility. Instead, we compare and tell ourselves we aren’t really too bad. We need to rekindle the thoughts we had when we initially were saved-a sinner in need of and saved by grace.

#2- The shadow of the cross teaches us what we need. The cross teaches me I need inward change.  I don’t need to change my circumstances, my lot in life, my place of living, or even a physical change.  I need an inward, heart change.  And here is the kicker: I am incapable of making this change happen on my own.

#3- The shadow of the cross teaches us who God is. Bluntly put: He is God and I am not.  But it goes much deeper than that. The cross teaches me that God is unrelentingly merciful.  The cross teaches me God is full of grace. The cross teaches me that He is the One who wants to be in charge and I am incapable of managing and running my own life. When God takes over ownership of my life, He wants to be the One in charge. He does not need a backseat driver telling Him what to do with my life.

The main ideas are from the book by Paul David Tripp entitled Journey to the Cross.  The commentary is mine. As you think about the upcoming season of the cross and Resurrection Sunday I hope this helps put things in perspective.  I will post the next three on Wednesday.

 

#Cross#Shadow

Written by cycleguy on March 12th, 2021

I missed Ash Wednesday. Well, not really. I was aware of it. I knew when it came (and went). But since I am not from a tradition that typically observed/observes it, I often consider it just another day on the calendar. However, I do try to be more aware of its significance.  I do know that Ash Wednesday is the start of what we call the “Easter season.” It is the start of the 40 day journey to Resurrection Sunday.

I may sound somewhat cynical here but please don’t take it as being any less sincere: I don’t need a reminder of how sinful I am. I see that every day-whether as I read my Bible, journal, interact with people, or just live my life. I feel like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15- “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  Busted!

But thank God for the cross!! A most unusual psalm fits in right here: Psalm 130. That psalm is the basis for my sermon Sunday on the shadow of the cross.  I’m borrowing from Paul David Tripp’s new book, Journey to the Cross for this message. He gives 6 lessons the shadow of the cross teaches us.  They will be the first part of my message followed by a look at Psalm 130.  I also plan to share those 6 lessons in two posts next week.  I’d love to have you join me and the church I pastor either in person or online.  And as always, if you are unable to do so, then prayer is always appreciated.

I’ll close this post with words from a Petra song: “Never perfect, but perfectly forgiven…This is life as we know it forgiven and free, life as we know it more abundantly.”  (Life As We Know It)

 

#Sensible#Wise

Written by cycleguy on March 5th, 2021

It is possible to live our entire lives from the wrong perspective. Believing we are right, we can be wrong. A perfect example of that is the man or woman who says he/she is an atheist. Bad choice! Or how about the one who chooses a lifestyle or belief system which is contrary to the Biblical one? Believing they are right will not get them into heaven. Thinking we are hitting the target most definitely does not guarantee us a bullseye.

In preparation for this week’s sermon, I ran across an old illustration which comes from American Indian lore. An Indian brave found an egg that had been laid by an eagle. Not being able to return the egg to an eagle’s nest, the next best thing to do was to put it in the nest of a prairie chicken. The hen sat on the egg, along with her own, and it eventually hatched.  The story continues…

All his life, the changeling eagle, thinking he was a prairie chicken, did what the prairie chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled. And he flew in a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground.

Years passed. And the changeling eagle grew very old. One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.

“What a beautiful bird!” said the…eagle to his neighbor. “What is it?”

“That’s an eagle-the chief of the birds,” said the neighbor clucked. “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.” 

So the changeling eagle never gave it another thought. And it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.

And we would say what a tragedy!  Designed to soar into the heavens, plunge to earth or water to get its food, and once again to soar majestically, this eagle settled for grubbing worms and seeds from dirt.

Is that any different than the jumble of humanity who sell their souls for temporary pleasure? There is sometimes a fine line between a wise person and a fool. This Sunday’s sermon is entitled Be Sensible-Be Wise from Ecclesiastes 10. I’ll be probing what it means to be both this week. I hope you will join me either in person or online.  And as I always ask, either way or if you can’t, I would appreciate your prayers.

 

#Density#OopsDestiny

Written by cycleguy on February 26th, 2021

In my favorite movie, Back to the Future, there is a scene where George McFly gets up the courage to ask Lorraine to the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. He is not very good with words or women and his first foray is telling Lorraine “You are my density.” When she shows her confusion, he restates it by saying, “I’m George, George McFly, and I’m your density. I mean, your destiny.”

There are two things which are certain…or so we hear: “Death and taxes.” I’m pretty sure that is an accurate statement. The death rate is 1/1. And I’m pretty certain taxes are not going away any time soon. Death is a predator that tracks us all down. We can’t outrun it no matter how much kale we eat, how many medicines we take, how many vitamins we shove down our throat every day, how many diets we try, how many botox injections we get or plastic surgeries we have performed, or how much we work out. Death comes to call and it is time to leave.

But death doesn’t have to have the final say. It is a fact of life, but what it says when we are gone is determined by the One who holds the keys to death and hell.  So death leaves us with two pictures: death will either render life meaningless or it will render life meaningful.

My sermon is from Ecclesiastes 9:1-10.  I’d love to have you join us in person or online. But most of all I’d appreciate your prayers.

 

#NewPost#FamiliarSongs

Written by cycleguy on February 23rd, 2021

Over at my other blog I have written a devotion which will post tomorrow. But I know that many do not read it so I thought I would post it here a day earlier. In that post I talk about a song which plays over and over in one’s head.  Here is the rest of tomorrow’s devotion blog. By the way, I’d love to have you join me on a daily basis as I write a devotion that I pray helps my readers face the day.  The link to that blog is here.  And here is that post:

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP.  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay. (Here is the link to that song).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

 

#TheHole#Emptiness#Life

Written by cycleguy on February 19th, 2021

Augustine is credited with saying, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in you.” (Edited by me since the original was in King James English).  Just take a look around and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize his statement is true. Solomon has shown us over and over in Ecclesiastes that those things which we pursue will never satisfy. But just when you think he might be done, Solomon moves on to another empty pursuit. This week he will cover riches and honor.

Have you ever researched lottery winners? While there are some success stories of people who stayed humble and are still living in their modest home and living a modest lifestyle, or got a financial advisor to handle their finances,  there are also those who splurged on a new home and new toys and then lost it all to bankruptcy and divorce or in trouble with the law. They would be perfect examples of Solomon’s conclusion: all is empty.

My sermon this Sunday is from Eccl.5:8-6:12. I’ve titled it The Hole because that seems to me what Solomon is saying. But all is not lost! Just as Solomon talks about The Hole we can find ourselves in by chasing after empty things, we can also have the hole filled.  William Butler Yeats once said, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Translated into Grandi language that says: “When things fall apart (as they will), nothing can hold life together.” I would disagree with Mr. Yeats because of the ONE who holds all of life together.  To help me make my point I’m going to share the story of Becket Cook, which comes from his book, Change of Affection. Becket was a practicing gay man who had an encounter with Christ and even though he had the world and all its “things,” he gave it up to follow Jesus. It is a thrilling story.

I’m recovering from gall bladder and hernia surgery as many of you know.  Ryan has a copy of my sermon just in case I can’t go, but Lord willing, I will be preaching this Sunday. I’d appreciate your prayers for health and a solid communication of the truth…by me or Ryan. Thanks.

 

#Update

Written by cycleguy on February 18th, 2021

The surgery was successful. They removed my gravel pit of a gall bladder. Pictures do not lie! He also did a hernia repair I did not know I had. It was all done laparoscopically so I was able to come home. Big whoop whoop on that!!  I can ride inside in 2 weeks and have a weight limit of 15 pounds lifting. All in all a successful day. I’m grateful to all of you who prayed.

 

Just thought I would let you know. I am extremely grateful for your prayers.

 

#ImportantDay#DayofReflection

Written by cycleguy on February 17th, 2021

Today is an important day for several reasons: one personal and one spiritual.

The spiritual first. Today, February 17th, is the beginning of Lent, or Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days before the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. This year that will be April 4th. I must confess to you that growing up in the church tradition I belonged to we did not observe Lent. I was so naive about it that I almost went up to a teacher who had a dark spot in the middle of his forehead and told him he had dirt there. 🙂 I had no clue! I also know some of my friends would talk about giving up something for Lent. Again, I had no clue.  My teacher was Catholic, as were my friends, and I now know that was a significant aspect of their belief system.  It had to be only 15 or so years ago that I really gave any notice to Lent. I heard some folks talking and decided it would behoove me to know more. For several years I decided to give it a go so one year I gave up caffeine pop. Another year I gave up beef (which wasn’t really hard since I didn’t eat it much anyway). One year I gave up all pop and drank only water. Then I finally figured out it really wasn’t about giving up something; it was really about surrender.

In his book, Journey to the Cross, a 40 day devotional to be used during Lent, Paul David Tripp writes: “It is right and beneficial to take a season of the year to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of our hearts clarified once again. Lent is such a season. As we approach Holy Week, where we remember the sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection of our Savior, it’s good to give ourselves to humble and thankful mourning. Lent is about remembering the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior. Lent is about confessing our ongoing battle with sin…And Lent is about giving ourselves in a more focused way to prayer, crying out for help that we desperately need from the only One who is able to give it.” (Pages 8-9)

I no longer use Lent to give up something physical. I try to use it to do just what Tripp says: “to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of my heart clarified once again.”  May I challenge you to do the same? I have been reading his book in preparation for my sermons on the cross and the resurrection. I’m actually on Day 17…and no I didn’t plan it that way. Perhaps you might even consider getting a copy of his book to help guide you.

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On a more personal note: this day has some significance. Many of you know of my struggles physically since testing positive for Covid on December 21. I will spare you the ugly details. Let’s just suffice it to say I lost between 40-50 pounds in less than a month. After multiple tests they have narrowed it down to gall stones which lodged in my bile duct which caused my physical issues. After having them removed, it was highly recommended that I have my gall bladder removed. My words: I have a gravel pit in there.  Oddly enough, I NEVER had a moment of pain. However much I hated getting Covid, it actually alerted my doctors (and me) to the potential for a great amount of pain and the possibility of infection which could have caused serious issues down the road. So I am having my gall bladder removed today. I guess that gives new meaning to Lent being a time of giving up something?  🙂  By the time many (most) of you read this my surgery will probably be over. I am hoping for the laparoscopy so I can come home today. All I ask is that whenever you read this you do say a prayer. I would like to recover as quickly as possible. On the bright side: we were “blessed” with 8-9 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday morning so I can’t be outside riding my bike anyway.  But I have been riding inside and am praying for a good answer to my question: when can I start riding inside again? I’ll keep you posted on how things went. Meanwhile, I do ask for your prayers. For more on this whole process and how I am “seeing” it, please check out my other blog here.

 

#Worship#Religion

Written by cycleguy on February 12th, 2021

Several years ago Victoria Osteen, the wife of entrepreneur, Joel Osteen, was recorded “preaching” and saying the following: “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself.”  I have seen that video clip and am still dumbfounded by it. What I have not seen since it was shared on social media is that clip of her saying that being paired with a scene from the film, Billy Madison where a man says, “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.”

When we hear a religious figure say out loud that we do not worship God for God, we know that is patently absurd. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the exact opposite of what Mrs. Osteen and others of her ilk say. It says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity has changed that to “God’s chief end is to glorify man and enjoy him forever.”

One pastor said, “It is possible to go to church and hear little about God and much about you.”

How can a person argue with that when it is staring us in the face?  “I didn’t get anything out of church today.” “What a waste of time today was. The music was too slow and the sermon didn’t touch me at all. I got nothing out of being in church.” What a difference it would make if we flipped that and asked, “What did I give God today? Did I give Him my full-on worship? Did I listen intently to the message as it was delivered from God’s Word? Was my heart into worship today?”

My sermon Sunday will tackle some of these thoughts as I use Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 to talk about Religion Investigated. I would love it if you would watch the live stream if you are unable to come.  If you are I look forward to seeing you in person.  And, as always, I appreciate your prayers.

 

#SpeakUpandOut#ItisTime

Written by cycleguy on February 10th, 2021

As the title suggests, it is time to speak up and out. I have rued speaking about politics on purpose.  In the long run, it serves no purpose. Talking heads will want to believe what they want to believe. My wife has asked me on several occasions, “Can’t people see that what he is doing is ruining our country?” I nodded in the affirmative to her thoughts about the country but then simply replied, “Nope they can’t because they don’t want to. Big tech and the liberal media only tell people what they themselves believe or what they want people to hear.” We saw that since the first impeachment (farce) of a trial and we saw it the whole 10 months leading up to the election.  (And please don’t get me started on that).

But I have another “bone” to pick. All this talk of science during the whole pandemic as though science was the end all. Science had/has all the answers.  “Science says this or science says that.” If science is so right on that subject, why is science so wrong on another subject?  Cases in point:

The current administration has signed into law that transgender males may participate in female sports. Science says that gives the males an unfair advantage because of the testosterone which is running through their body. But we suddenly push science aside for the sake of political “woke-sim.”  Can I say how much I despise that word “woke”?  Even athletes like Martina Navratilova, a known and out-spoken lesbian,  has gone on public record that it is a bad thing. “It gives the transgender athlete an unfair advantage,” she says. Oh, she took some heat on that one for sure. She isn’t alone. Even Billie Jean King spoke out.  And many others.  It is unfair that woman/high school/college athletes will be punished by the travesty of allowing males to compete as females. So we kick science to the curb for the sake of being PC (a word we no longer need to use since we have “woke”).  Have I told you much I despise that word?  🙂  Oh, and if you think this is not backed by big money then take a gander at this articleThat ought to chill you to the core.

Another “Kick science to the curb” scenario is the recent vote to allow babies who survive abortion not to receive medical help, i.e. just let them die. The fact that they are breathing even science will admit means they are alive.  How can babies be denied life-saving means, especially when a botched abortion was meant to take their life to start with? I am beyond stumped with that. And I am beyond livid when it comes to abortion and now this?  I submit to you there will be some lawmakers who will cringe when they stand before the Judge of all and have to give an account for their actions.  I seem to remember Someone saying we “need to become like children to see the kingdom of heaven” and “it would be better if a millstone were tied around our neck rather than cause one of the little ones to stumble.”  Of course, I suspect many or most of them don’t care what God thinks. And for a supposed pastor to vote for letting them die? I do not want to be in his shoes on Judgment Day.

I have other thoughts but will keep them to myself.  🙂  I will also now climb down off my soapbox and be on my way.  I ranted long enough.  Oh…by the way…these are not political issues; they are moral issues. On those I will speak.