Grace

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June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

 

March 11

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

I want to continue my thoughts on gratitude.

I was sitting in my chair last night unable to sleep. It was one of those nights where the combination of no gall bladder (and still learning), eating the wrong thing too late, and my mind refusing to shut off which made for a tough night for sleep to come.

But as I sat there (remember I said my mind refused to shut off) and a thought hit me.

  • A person cannot be envious of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be jealous of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be dissatisfied and be thankful.
  • A person cannot grumble and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be a complainer and be thankful.

All those examples are dichotomous. The idea of being unhappy with one’s lot in life and being overly thankful just does not gel.

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to knowing much about a monk named Brother Lawrence. I have heard of him and that is about where my knowledge ends. I know of him. But I just read something recently which gave me a whole new perspective of this unique man.  He was a monk of lowly status who spent his days washing and scrubbing pots and pans and doing menial work around the monastery. In spite of that lowly life, people loved to be in his presence. Why? Because he loved to invite God’s Presence into all he did. His heart was filled with gratitude and therefore, it had no room for grumbling, complaining, etc.

Do people like to be in your presence because you bring God’s Presence with you? I ask myself that question and tend to come up wanting.

“Father, may today be a start of something different. May it be a day where people enjoy being in my presence because I bring Your Presence in with me.”

March 9

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately to some worship music. Some older. Some newer. Chris Tomlin. Pat Barrett. Matt Redman. My sermons for the next 4 Sundays are on the cross (go figure since Easter is coming). 🙂  One song that keeps playing over and over in my mind is Once Again by Matt Redman. It has a chorus which says, “Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross my Friend.”

It’s not often we say those kinds of words. The cross is looked upon as an instrument of ugliness and hate and in its physical form it is.  So being thankful? Not quite on our radar. That just doesn’t seem appropriate does it? Sounds sort of sadistic in a way. “Yes! I’m glad Jesus died on a cruel cross!” Well, in a way, we should be.

But that opens up a thought I want to pursue the next few blog posts: Gratitude. “Thankful for the cross.” Let’s define gratitude first:

It is the divinely given spiritual ability to see grace, and the corresponding desire to affirm it and its giver as good. (p.18)

Bill’s translation: Seeing what is as being from God and affirming and acknowledging it to God and others, i.e. taking no credit whatsoever for any of it but knowing WHO it all came from. As hard as it is to sometimes see, God is at work in all ways, and at all times to ultimately bring about honor and glory to Him. And ALWAYS for our good.

What are your ideas about gratitude? About the cross? I want to explore more the next couple of days. But I would like to ask you for your thoughts and how they might be reinforced or challenged the next couple posts.

“Father, I do thank You for the cross. A symbol of ugliness and hate has turned into the biggest and most vivid symbol of love the world could ever know. I know it has become that to me.”

Quote from “Practicing Thankfulness” by Sam Crabtree

March 3

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

I never tire of hearing stories of how people were saved. I love sitting and listening or reading as someone tells their salvation story.

I was reminded of that today as I read Acts 8 & 9. I was also reminded how different each person’s story is. Oh sure, you will hear those whose testimony isn’t much different from countless others. “I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus as my Savior at a fairly young age.” Now the story may vary somewhat from there but there is a commonality in them.

Nor is it unusual to hear the “prodigal son” story come out of someone’s mouth. Or the druggie/junkie/addict story. The stories are endless but I, for one, never tire of hearing them and rejoicing in the goodness and grace of God.

Case in point: Acts 8 & 9. Philip heads to Samaria and the power of the Gospel was so strong people came to Jesus, even Simon the Sorcerer (or so we are led to believe early on). But Peter seems to expose Simon’s real motives. Then Philip is whisked away to meet with the Ethiopian eunuch, who has his own conversion story. Then Saul/Paul in Acts 9. Talk about marvelous and powerful and (admittedly) somewhat surprising given the task Saul was performing.

But here is my point: each story is different. The one who comes to Christ at a young age and follows Him has just as valid a testimony as the eunuch or Saul/Paul. No testimony of God’s work and saving power is invalid or any less important. What IS important is the salvation which occurs and the testimony which follows.

Got something to say about God’s goodness? About His salvation? Say it!

“Father, all salvation experiences are important to you. None more than any other.  May Your saving grace ring out from all lips and testify of your grace and salvation!”

March 1

Monday, March 1st, 2021

(Note: I wrote this Friday, the 26th, but waited to post it until today)

I didn’t sleep well last night. Not exactly sure why. I was tired. I had a day of doctor visits (follow up to surgery and dental for an implant). I had a beautiful visit with a family of three children, who because of health issues with the youngest, have been unable to be in worship with the group. I took M&Ms to the kids; a bag of York peppermint patties to mom; and a bag of Heath bars to dad. Of course the kids were already in their boxes within 5 minutes! 🙂

If I had a “guess” as to why I have unrest and have been up since  before my regular “day-of-work-get-up-time of 3:30” is what I know I might have to do this morning and where I need to go. I will be at the High School at 8:00 to possibly “help” or listen to a teacher or student who is struggling. You see, we had a tragedy this week in our school system. Last weekend one of our teachers and baseball coach, the husband of our Middle School principal, had a brain bleed. Even a second opinion has declared him brain dead so last night they began harvesting his organs for the donation process. (He will continue making a difference long after he leaves this earth).  He leaves behind a wife and 2 young girls. The oldest turned 6 on Thursday. One also has Down’s but I’m not sure what her age is. Bryan was not only the baseball coach, but he also taught SpecEd and it is easy to see why.

Why then the upset? Because Ryan (our youth pastor) and I have been asked to be there to listen and help if needed. Ryan was there all morning on Thursday. Very few wanted to talk. Like one or two.  But who knows?  It appears that he and his wife were Christ-followers. Her posts allude to that.  If so, she has a hope beyond all one can imagine. I pray it will sustain her and the girls in the coming days.

But questions abound. Some I don’t have an answer to. Does anyone really? Only God knows for sure and His Word is the go-to. But sometimes questions still abound. I’m praying for wisdom if needed.

Meanwhile, would you please pray for Ashley and the 2 girls? They need God’s Presence more as each day passes.

“Father, You are the Giver of Peace. I pray that for Ashley. You are Giver of Wisdom.  I pray that for Ryan and me today.  I also pray extra wisdom for Ashley as she navigates life without the love of her life. And I’m looking for the good you will bring out of this.”

February 19

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Prequel: I had pre-posted the previous two posts because I had no clue what the day (Wednesday-the day of surgery) would bring. I knew I would have to leave for the hospital about 5:15 so my March 17th post was ready to go. Yesterday’s post was also ready simply because I didn’t know what to expect in the way of recovery. So here’s the scoop:

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.

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Now for today’s main attraction. Okay…it is the devotion. 🙂

Bob Goff wrote something rather insightful when you stop to think about it:

We’ll be known for our opinions but remembered for our love. (p.59)

Someone may be a well-known pastor/preacher. Entrepreneur. Plumber. Teacher. Writer. Theologian. You name it. But I have conducted enough funerals to know while that may be true, the real legacy “bragged about,” talked about, reminisced about, laughed about, preached about, is the legacy of love left behind. The kind word. The out-stretched hand. The “secret” slight of hand which had money in it. The shoulder to cry on. It is our kindness not our qualifications that is remembered.

In my Bible reading yesterday I read John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But a verse stuck with me: “He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. (Vv.1-2) Emphasis mine.

Fast-forward to my Bible reading for today and John 12:3- “Then Mary took a 12 ounce jar of expensive perfume made from the essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”  (Emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Judas complained because she could have not bought the perfume, but put the money in the treasury. He liked that arrangement better, you know, because he used to embezzle funds for himself.

Jesus came to her defense, as you would expect. Mary is known for her kindness and act of love, not her opinions. Judas? Well…’nuff said.

Seems to me we would be wiser to do than to talk. Many talk a big game, some play it. When my legacy is considered I want to be remembered for way I loved, not for the way I talked. I want to be remembered for the outstretched hand, the big shoulder, the loving arms, the grace-filled approach, rather than my (often unsolicited) opinions.

What will you be known for?

“Father, help me to be known for my love, not my opinions. Opinions die (except for the damage left behind); love lasts.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not mad as in crazy. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven mad. You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus when they were heading toward Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!” (Luke 9:51-56)

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? A blessing and then moving on? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suspect they may have wanted to add, “You know…make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah!”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps even deeper meaning happening here. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of grace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go.  Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right, but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus.

“Father, that is my prayer for today. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus and let Him lead me through this jungle of relationships and reactions. And above all, help me to love.”

February 3

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

One of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus is given to us by His close friend, John. Maybe that is one of the reasons why this story is extra special- it was written by His close friend. One of the Sons of Thunder. One of the brothers who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a city, all because they dissed his friend. I can read this story and experience relief. I can experience a sense of peace. I can experience a wave of a-a-a-a-h sweep over me.

The story is familiar to many of us. It is found in John 8-a story some say is not in the original canon. No matter. I like it anyway. Jesus heads to the temple for another day of teaching when religious leaders rocket before Him interrupting Him with their words and a woman. “This woman was caught in adultery (Excuse me but where is the man?). Our Law says ‘stone her’ but what do you say?” They have thrown down the gauntlet and think they’ve got Him. But this is not His first rodeo, especially with them. He leans down to write in the sand (I sure would like to know what He wrote wouldn’t you?). Then He tells them that the one who is without sin should cast the first stone. He watches them leave one-by-one until all who are left is He and the lady. I see Jesus reaching out His hand to help her up, wipe the mud and tears and shame off her face, ask her a question about her accusers, then telling her to “go and sin no more.”

He didn’t shame her. He didn’t berate her. He certainly didn’t kick dirt on her or throw a stone. He didn’t tell her she needed to attend an AA (Adulterer’s Anonymous) meeting. Nope. Just forgiveness. Just G-R-A-C-E.

I’m that woman. You are that woman. Condemned by our sin and shame we prostate ourselves at the feet of the loving Father. Wallowing in that sin and condemnation and shame we grovel in the dirt at the foot of the cross. But the loving Savior does not shame us or condemn us. He extends grace and forgives us. What more can we ask for? Grace upon grace.

“Father, thank You for this story. Thank You for Your marvelous grace. As it has been extended to me, may I extend it to someone today. Help me to be an agent of grace for You.”

 

January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”