Forgiveness

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#Forgiveness

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

OOPS! I messed up. I allowed time to get away from me. In my last post, which was a preview of this past Sunday’s sermon, I said I would share some thoughts from Sunday’s sermon on Philemon and the power of forgiveness. As I said, I allowed time to get away from me since I had planned on posting this Monday, the 2nd.  Well…better late than never I guess. 🙂

Here are four observations I made at the end of my message this past Sunday. I know it isn’t much but perhaps it might help with some perspective.

Failure to forgive imprisons  believers in their past. Unforgiveness keeps the sore open and never allows it to heal.  Hurt done to you and not dealt with is like having an open sore that always oozes pus.  You can put a band-aid over it but the sore never heals.  Ditto failing to forgive.

Failure to forgive produces bitterness. The longer you hold onto an offense committed against you, the more bitter you will get. Bitterness distorts your whole outlook on life.

Failure to forgive gives an open door to the enemy. He loves little cracks in the doorway. Ephesians 4 tells us not to give him a foothold.

Failure to forgive hinders fellowship with God. A barrier devel0ps as a result of bitterness.  Having a horizontal barrier is bad; having a vertical one is even worse. A thousand time worse. A person who is not forgiving of others cannot be right with God.

One last thing: I say this over and over to the church. If you fail to forgive someone, they own you. You are their slave. Sad part is this: your failure to forgive does not hurt them. They don’t care. It does, however, hurt you.

In my mind there is only one thing to do.

#Snapshots#Forgiveness

Friday, April 29th, 2022

We all like to receive letters. Long or short. Hearing from someone we love or have at least corresponded with at some time usually makes for a good day.  The NT consists of 27 books, most of which take some time to read and study through.

But it also contains some very short books. Four to be exact. I thought it would be a nice change of pace after the sometimes grueling and grinding subject matter of Truth Decay to pause for a refresher. So for the next 5 weeks (not including Mother’s Day) I plan to cover the short books of the NT: Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude (2 sermons). I’m calling the series Snapshots since they give us short pictures of the early church.

First up is Philemon. if you haven’t read it before I’d suggest you read it. What a wonderful book! And a wonderful series of lessons we can learn. The most important?

LEARNING TO FORGIVE.

I’ll be looking at Paul’s request he makes of Philemon and how it is calling on Philemon to make one of the greatest sacrifices anyone can make: to forgive when someone has wronged you.  I’ll be talking about 4 things which happen to us when we fail to forgive.  I’ll share them in a blog next week.

I’d like to invite you to join us in person or via live stream. And I’d also encourage you to pray and ask God how He wants you to forgive and whom He might want you to forgive.

#SoberCycle#Review

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

I can count on one hand the good things I think that have come out of the pandemic of the past close to 2 years.  One was the church implementing a live stream. That was most definitely good because it was very much needed. The other is podcasts, as in, I started listening to them. I have always said that I have trouble listening and driving. So I listened to music almost exclusively.  After I started listening to podcasts I had to change my tune. I figured out the reason why I could listen to them: they were not sermons.  Sermons are by nature one-sided so my mind wandered. Not so with most podcasts.  Honestly, I no longer listen to some of the podcasts I started with.  Some got too complicated. Some too business-oriented. Some too large-church oriented (I’m a pastor of a church in a small town so no relevancy there).

But one I have continued and consistently listened to is Bleeding Daylight hosted by Australian Rodney Olsen. I first “met” Rodney when we crossed paths while blogging.  We also had something in common: he was  a cyclist. Anyway, Rodney’s podcast is his interviews with various people who have overcome challenges and “kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.”  Like all interviews, some kept my rapt attention and some I lost interest in. One of the most recent featured a woman by the name of Sherry Hoppen from Hudsonville, MI.  Sherry’s story is one of addiction to alcohol.  It kept my attention from start to finish, not because I have an issue with it (I have never had a drink), but because I have some I know who do.  It was for them I listened; it was for them I was blessed.

Sherry has written a book chronicling her journey in a much more in-depth way than the podcast could do.

Sober Cycle: Pedaling Through Recovery One Day at a Time

I confess that I am hesitant to review or even suggest a “self-help” book.  Most of them are of the “your best life now” genre. I loathe that approach. Life is a challenge; life is tough, and no amount of self-talk will get you out off that treadmill. But Sherry’s book is much more than self-help. It is a memoir of sorts.  It is a revealing book. It is a brutally honest book.  Since I have never had an issue with alcohol, I do not totally understand its grasp on people. Sherry enlightened me as to the struggle addicts face. I wanted to simply say to her, “Well, then walk away. Don’t drink” but it wasn’t that easy.  And to my friends here, I now have a better idea of what they are going through.

I gave my copy to my friend. I now have another. I know another friend who has one waiting for him when he comes out of rehab.  I have to admit that I was impressed by Sherry’s battle, but I was totally impressed by her husband, Craig, who stood by her through it all. I know many husbands (and wives) who would have walked out and away at the first sign of addiction, let alone stay with her for years as she struggled.  Kudos to Craig!

I must also tell you that Sherry’s hobby is cycling.  Her first real effort at getting free from her addiction was a bike ride from Michigan to Maryland.  But her addiction was so bad she even started the ride with a hangover. I’m telling you folks, you need to read this book. For yourself. For your friends. For your alcoholic friend or relative.  And then pass it along.

Oh, one more thing. Sherry’s ministry is called She Surrenders because that is what it took for her to finally get free. Surrendering daily to the lordship of Jesus.  I can’t speak highly enough of Sherry’s book.  You can order from her website (https://www.shesurrenders.com/ or if you prefer, Amazon.

 

#Dirty#Cleansed

Friday, June 25th, 2021

I read recently that some are convinced that if WWII did not happen the History Channel would not exist.  He goes on to explain that “it seems that the vast majority of HC’s programming either deals with the war in general or Hitler in particular.  Hitler’s bodyguards. Hitler’s hideouts. Hitler and the occult. Hitler’s suicide.” One of his henchman, Dr. Josef Mengele, was dubbed “The Angel of Death” because of his horrific work with Jewish prisoners.  He saw them as experiments to be played with, not as humans who were God’s image bearers.

Back in the late 70s/early 80s, pop singer, the late B.J.Thomas came out as a Christ-follower. A string of records and awards followed in the Christian music industry. I remember one of his songs was entitled Using Things and Loving People. That is the correct order. But sadly, we often tend to turn it around and say, “Love things and use people.”

How do you see people? For the past 2 months I have been preaching a series called “Eyes Wide Open” where I focused on how Jesus saw people.  The final sermon is this Sunday and it focuses on the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  A poster child for one who needed grace in a big way. And Jesus came through! But it causes me to question my own response to people.

Please join me in person or via live stream at 9 and 10:45. You can find the links to the live stream (the church’s FB page or YouTube) on the church’s website (ovcf.org). If you can’t be here or watch, then please say a prayer for us.

#Truth#Confrontation

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Sometimes I feel like my name ought to be George McFly. He is the father of Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future. When Marty goes back into the past to 1955 he finds out his father was a milquetoast back then just as he is in 1985. There is one scene early on in the movie where Marty comes home to find the family car has been wrecked by Biff (the bully in the movies). Biff is bullying his dad and after Biff leaves, George looks at Marty and says, “I know, son, I know. But Biff is my boss and I guess I’m not very good at confrontation.”

I suspect not many of us are good at confrontation. In fact, if I was to make a list of “Worst Things To Do” or “Things I Despise Doing,”  I’m pretty sure confronting someone would not be high on most people’s list. Unless, of course, you are a sadist and enjoy making people’s lives miserable.

We all have toxic people in our lives, people we would just as soon not be around for any length of time…if at all. Jesus seemed to spend a lot of time around toxic people. They were called Pharisees. Sunday’s sermon, Eyes of Truth, is from Luke 7: 36-50. It is the story of Simon the Pharisee and the “sketchy” woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears.  How He deals with both is a classic lesson to learn.

Join me please either in person or online as we live stream to the church’s FB page or YouTube. Want to know how? Go the church’s website. Right underneath the banner for this Sunday’s sermon are the links for both. Simple and easy. See you there!!

#Broken#FindingStrength

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some books which you labor through; some you breeze through; some you savor like a fine pizza (fooled you didn’t I?); and some you read that you don’t want to put down and think, “I suspect somewhere along the line I will read that again. I most definitely will pass it along to someone else when the time is right.”

I found and read one of those books just recently:

Strength at the Broken Places: A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God's Grace

I am not sure where I heard about Greg’s book. It may have been a podcast. It may have been while reading another book. But wherever it was, I’m grateful. This book is subtitled A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God’s Grace.  It was that and more.

From the earliest memories of his childhood Greg’s life was broken. An unsettled parental relationship which eventually wound up in divorce. A mother who never really recovered from the divorce.  High school years which had both success and failure. The loss of his grandfather (Big Pa) deeply affected him. Then it was off to college and surprisingly for this “going nowhere young man” college became a much better experience. His grades were so bad in high school Greg started college on academic probation. But he found his niche. He found it even more when his relationship to Christ blossomed and he met Terri Lynn, who eventually became his wife.

It would be nice to say that Greg’s life was all peaches and cream after that. It was the exact opposite. Seminary. A doctorate.  Several different pastorates. Things began to fall apart though as he allowed his demons from his childhood (and other events) continue to haunt him.  A failed marriage. A failed job or two. Shame from his past. He is definitely one of those men who found his identity in his job.

Eventually, he found another wife who was committed to Christ.  I wish I could say that it was a “happily ever after” kind of life but it wasn’t. She even moved out when his “demons” came back. Ultimately though he sought help in the form of a Christian counselor and two mentors who helped him rise above the “demon” past. Today Greg is the pastor of Lost Pines Cowboy Church in Texas. God has used him, his past, and his present to help others and to make the future something to look forward to.

I highly recommend this book. It was readable but not fluffy. Greg painted himself warts and all. Everyone can benefit from reading this book and then passing it along. I plan to do just that whenever I find someone who could really benefit from his experiences.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if there was a grading system.

#NeverTooLate#Song

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I was on my way to the office this morning (Thursday) and was listening to Kutless. I have been listening to them lately and I’m sure I heard this song but never paid much attention.

Until this morning.

I realized how pertinent it was given the meaning of this whole week. The day we honor tomorrow (Good Friday). The day we celebrate on Sunday (Resurrection).

And the ache we have in our hearts for those we know and/or love who have continued to push Jesus away.  I know I do.  I offer this to you to be encouraged to not stop praying and hoping. It is never too late until that last breath is breathed. Until then…

Here is the song.

#Heart#Cross#Dichotomy

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hey! Thanks for dropping by my blog. I had planned on posting one more time before this weekend but a quick and last minute trip to Ohio to visit with our daughter and grandson took precedence and me out of the loop. So I’m playing a little bit of catch up and this is one of those places. I have to forego the post I was going to do and post this one instead.

The old hymn used the refrain, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross/’Til my trophies at last I’ll lay down.” The question which begs to be asked is, “How can someone cherish the cross? What we know of it and the horrors and torture which surrounded it says anything but “cherish.” It was an ugly instrument of death.

The past two weeks I have been looking at the cross and will do the same this week. This Sunday is commonly called Palm Sunday because it showcases the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem surrounded by followers laying palm branches on the ground.  It introduces what is called Holy Week, so-called because it is the last week of Jesus’ earthly life/ministry before His crucifixion and resurrection.  Some have called this week and crucifixion as being the week where we get to see a perfect example of cosmic child abuse.  Progressive “Christianity” is whacked and the purveyors of it are complicit in its and their “whackness.”

The cross was absolutely essential to the story of salvation.  Take away the cross and you take away the heart of the whole story.  The Bible tells us this is the way it had to be!  JESUS DIED WILLINGLY, laying down His life on His own accord.  He wasn’t forced or tricked or blackmailed or threatened with the extinction of His people. He did all of this willingly. In fact, Hebrews 12 says, “For the joy set before Him.”

My purpose this Sunday is to show the heart of the cross.  I want to show how Jesus defied common wisdom and practice and instead of whining and crying and fighting, He willingly laid down His life for me, for you.”  I even have a great story which Charles Dickens included in The Tale of Two Cities which I will be using in the sermon.  (If you are unable to watch or attend and are good, I will include it in a post this coming week). 🙂

Please join me in person or online on the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.  You can check out the church’s website for those links.  And as always, if you are unable to do either, please pray for me, for us. Thanks.

#Forgiveness#LessonsforReal

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

This past Sunday I preached about the necessity of the cross. I once again went to an unlikely Scripture for better understanding: Psalm 130.  Thanks to the late Dr. James Boice (see the end of this post for an interesting fun fact), I was able to make some excellent remarks about God’s forgiveness. I share those with you here:

#1- God’s forgiveness is inclusive. Verse 4 does not say, “There is forgiveness for this sin but not that sin.” It would be even worse if it said, “There is forgiveness for this sin” but then not include the one you or I are guilty of. God’s forgiveness sets no limits. The only sin not forgiven is the rejection of Christ.

#2- God’s forgiveness is for now.  The translators do it right here (v.4) by using the word “is.”  The original Hebrew is even stronger because it says, “With you forgiveness.” You or I don’t have to wonder about our future of standing before God or standing in trembling uncertainty. There is forgiveness for you, this moment, right now.

#3- God’s forgiveness is for those who want it. In verses 1-2 the psalmist says, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” Forgiveness is there but you must ask for it. One thing I have noticed over the years is God will never force Himself on anyone. You must ask. You must want Him. Notice the psalmist is confessing his sin in verse 1. Pleading for mercy in verse 2. And then believing and trusting God for that mercy in verse 4. 

#4- God’s forgiveness leads to godly living. Some people object to grace being a motivating factor because they say it leads to sin. You know that argument right? “Bill, if you teach about grace it will just give people a license to sin.” I see it as the opposite. The forgiveness we are talking about does not lead to license but to reverence for God. Notice the words at the end of verse 4: “to be feared.” That is reverence. A life truly changed by the power of the Gospel and the power of God’s forgiveness will not fall into a pattern of sin and disregard for God’s Word. The true effects of forgiveness are love and worship and service not license to sin.

So there you have it. Four lessons to learn and apply about forgiveness. I hope this helps you understand forgiveness a little more.

And now for the fun fact: Dr. Boice’s father was an M.D. who practiced in Duquesne, PA. and McKeesport Hospital. He was my family doctor. Today he would be called a Pediatrician. That was l-o-o-o-o-n-g before specialized medicine. 🙂 And there you have an interesting fun fact.

#Cross#Shadow

Friday, 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)