Forgiveness

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#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)

#Life#Sacred#SpeakUp

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Every once in a while a pastor has to-by design or by expository preaching through a book-come across a subject which is uncomfortable or controversial.  I think people are much more forgiving if you are preaching through a book and come across an uncomfortable subject, like say…tithing.  But when a pastor gets on his soapbox or high horse and screams and challenges any opposite view that is when listeners get “antsy.”

This Sunday has the potential to be one of the latter. Way back in September when I doing a series called “Q&A” one of the questions was going to be “What About Abortion?”  I scrapped it because the time was not right (for several reasons). I then chose to not preach about it before the election lest someone think I was hyping a particular political position and was against a certain candidate.

Here is why I held off: I do not believe abortion is a political issue, nor should it be. I believe it is a Biblical issue, a moral issue.  I heard a podcast this past week where Alisa Childers was interviewing John Cooper, the lead singer of the Christian rock band, Skillet. John said the same thing-that it was a Biblical issue.  Anyway, when I started working on the Ecclesiastes series Life Matters, it seemed to fall in line that now was the time.  Couple that with this Sunday being “Sanctity of Life” Sunday and it was like the perfect storm.

I have no intention of being judgmental or to froth at the mouth out of contempt for those who perform or have had, campaign for or even encouraged an abortion. There is enough guilt thrown at them without me adding to it.  My approach is going to be simple and straightforward: How pro-life is the Bible? and How does God see the unborn? A massive amount of Scripture will be used with the final emphasis on Psalm 139: 13-18.

Each week I invite you to join me/us in our worship. We will be live this week with both services being offered in person and live stream.  So I do invite you to join us at 9 & 10:45. However, the best and greatest thing you can do is P.R.A.Y. I want the message of the Bible to come through loud and clear, that the cacophony of voices will be silenced, and God will be heard. Thanks ahead of time.

#NewYear’sMessage#Guest

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Sometime in 2019 (yeah tha-a-a-a-t long ago) Jo and I ran across a show we made a staple. We were actually late to the party since they had already cancelled their show for the purpose of refocusing. Understand. HGTV did not cancel the top-rated show. They did. The show was Fixer Upper starring Chip and Joanna Gaines. I loved the show, watching them do what they did. I did not nor do I care about what people thought about the changes they made, nor whether it was put on or not (it was not). Jo once said, “Good grief, Bill. I think I found your alter-ego.” Not in the handyman category to be sure, but in his sense of humor, love of life, silly antics, and tireless energy. I was honored she said that. Anyway, coming sometimes in 2021 on their own network is a new Fixer Upper. I’ll watch it providing our cable provider supplies it or we can stream it.

All that say: I get their blog sent to my blog reader. This is the first I can remember that Chip actually wrote one. Joanna is the real “thinker” of the two. But at the first of the year, Chip wrote a blog, A New Year’s Message from Me (Chip). It was so good I thought I would share it with you.

Let’s just call it like it is: 2020 was rough. Not rough around the edges. Not rough in a lovable sort of way. Just straight up rough.

Watching the news, hearing messages of doubt, and division, stories of loved ones passing away, seeing so many lose their jobs and live at odds with their neighbors. That stuff gets to me, it’s heartbreaking, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But you don’t need another reminder of what this year cost. Across the board, we all lost something. We all sacrificed something. We all watched something we had worked incredibly hard for be put on hold or forgotten or lost altogether. And without a doubt, we need time to grieve and reflect on the heartbreak, the sadness, and the loss.

But maybe today is a time to be reminded that darkness always gives way to light, that endings always give way to new beginnings. That the ups don’t last forever, and neither do the downs. Between peaks there are always valleys, and no matter how long we’re in the valley, we can always look up and see that we’re not just wandering around in vain, that hope really does carry us forward.

It’s been said that there’s a time for everything. A time for weeping and a time for laughing. A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to mourn and a time to dance. We’ve all lived through these varying seasons before, but never all together. This year changed that.

And it got me thinking.. whatever it is that divides us pales in comparison to the thread that weaves us together, that guides us toward an understanding of why we’re all here. What it all means. What this life we’ve been given is really for.

For me, as I step into 2021, I know we can all love more. We can all understand more. We can all listen and learn more. We get a say in how we respond to all that’s happened in 2020, how much hope we’re going to carry across the valley and how much light we’re going to shine into the darkness. Through the words we speak. Through forgiveness. Through how we engage with our neighbors. Through the way we empathize with those who have lost in unimaginable ways. Through the way we talk to our kids about all that’s going on. Through the way we support those in need. We get to decide how much goodness and beauty is shared throughout our homes, our cities, the world. Right now, wherever we are.

I pray we take with us the eternal lessons of 2020 and hold fast to the hope that is just around the corner.

— Chip

Eternal lessons of 2020 and hold fast to the hope. Sounds like the Apostle Paul could have written those words. I agree with Chip. We can all love more. We can all listen and learn more. I personally think that how I act in 2021 shows how I was affected by 2020.  I was going to post the following song in my end of the year post but decided to wait until it fit better. It does now. Again, I know this will not be many of your “cup of tea.” If you can’t stand the music mute it and watch as the words scroll across the page. Let’s Make Love Great Again.

 

#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.

#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.

#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.