Grace

...now browsing by tag

 
 

August 2

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

For the longest time I felt I “just had to read my Bible.” For several years I used a guide that took me though the whole Bible in a year. Three  years in a row. I can’t say it was that exciting or revolutionary.  I mean, I was reading the Bible but at what cost? It is hard for it to be exciting when “obligation” sets in.

That’s why I like the approach I use now. I’ll not belabor the details (unless you ask), but this past week and even now, I’ve been in I John. I’m taking my time.

Early on while reading I John, some Scripture “spoke” to me but I put it aside. Until this morning. I John 1:9 is a verse I hang my hat on. A LOT. But it is 2:1-2 that stuck with me and drew me back.  Here are three thoughts I’d like to highlight:

  • “If anyone sins”– we will. Trust me. Perhaps it is wiser to say it like this: “If anyone sins (and we will).” For further proof we will, look no further than I John 1: 8-10.
  • “Advocate”– Jesus is our Attorney.  He is the One who stands in our place, our defense. He is our Intercessor.
  • “Propitiation”– Jesus is our means of reconciliation. He is our sin-offering. Without Jesus we have nothing. No solution for sin.

It all comes down to Jesus. That’s Who we remember. That’s Who we worship.

“Father, may the memory of what Jesus has done for me make a difference in my life. Thank you for forgiving my sin, being my Attorney, and being willing to give Yourself for me.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 19

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I confess: I’ve never really been a fan of musicals.  My ideas have changed over time though. The first one I went to that I can remember was “Oklahoma!” Sadly, I wasn’t wise enough to keep my comments and opinions to myself and offended some people.  But over time I have changed. I realized it when we went to see The Greatest Showman featuring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and others. The theater manager told me I will have trouble not wanting to move my feet and get up a dance. She didn’t know me very well. I was stubborn enough to do neither (I definitely would not get up and dance. Making a fool of myself is not in my playbook).  The second and third time I watched it -consecutive nights no less- I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy the movie…although I still didn’t dance. 🙂

One of the most moving parts was the song “From Now On” which comes after P.T. (played by Jackman) realized how he had hurt his family and friends by his actions. It still amazes me how he was able to sing while running and not be out of breath. 🙂  Anyway, the song celebrates the joy of coming home.

Luke 15, the story of the loving father and his wandering son, is a story of coming home. The cross is a story of an invitation to come home. Jesus dying on the cross because of His love for us and hatred of our sin, is a story of forgiveness and coming home.

It is actually an open invitation for all to come home. Perhaps you know someone who needs to know they can come home. Jesus is waiting for them. Maybe that person is you. Come home. The WELCOME mat is laid out.

July 14

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

In this day and age of “justice this” and “justice that;” of riots; revenge; senseless killing and getting even, we need to hear and use and practice another word:

MERCY

Jesus once said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Please read it again. Is it saying the same to you as it is to me?

Those who show mercy will be shown mercy.

Mercy is a God-promise. Lamentation 3: 22-23 says, “The Lord’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, For His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” What does the word they refer to? Acts of mercy. Everyday God’s mercies are new. Mercy is a God theme.

Imagine if we would practice mercy instead of justice. God’s mercy runs throughout Scripture. Would there even be an Israel, a Jewish nation, if God only exercised justice and no mercy?  How many times do the Israelites merit justice but instead receive mercy? On the cross Jesus didn’t say, “Zap ’em good Father.” No. Instead He said, “Father, forgive them.”

I’m in that same boat. For each sin. For each wayward look. For each idolatrous attitude. For each angry thought or word directed toward Him or someone else. Justice deserved; mercy given.

According to Lamentations 3 God’s mercy will never end. It will never cease and grace will never disappear. Each and every day I/you experience God’s mercy. EACH. AND. EVERY. DAY.

And get this! It is not warmed over, stale mercy. Every day it is new!! Can’t beat that!

“Father, each day Your mercies are new. Remind me over and over of that truth and then to absorb it. Help me to live in the light of that mercy…with you and with others.”

Two notes: First, don’t think for a minute that I don’t believe there is a place for justice. I do, but that is a topic for another day. Two, all Scripture is from the NASB 2020 translation.

June 25

Friday, June 25th, 2021

I want to help you to finish your week on a high note. I have a story to tell you that I believe will do that. It will also tell you and show you that we serve a phenomenally, awesome God. Here is the story:

Backstory first: We have been praying for a young man in our church fellowship named Robert Herrington for the past month or so. A month to the day on Sunday, Robert was lifting weights and sat up on the bench and hit his head. Not much. Didn’t hurt. He came home for the summer that same day and began preparing for summer boot camp (he is in a college ROTC program). He slept that next day because he was so tired and two days later began to stutter. Badly. Test after test showed no brain injury, except a concussion. But the stuttering continued. He lost strength (he was a weight-lifter). He lost cognitive ability and memory. And he wanted to sleep. A lot. The specialists told him it could be anywhere from 6 months to a year before he stopped stuttering and got relief for the other symptoms. His outlook has been to trust God because He knows what He is doing. I admire a 20 year old with that kind of trust. Anyway, he came to church this past Sunday still stuttering.  I mentioned him during our prayer time and prayed for God to intervene and astound the doctors. Sunday afternoon he, and his sister, Abigail, were driving somewhere and he talked to her in his stutter. The next sentence out of his mouth had no stutter and he has not done so since then!  IS THAT NOT AWESOME?  I don’t use that word except to describe God or something He has done. When I visited with Robert and his family on Monday I did not know what had happened until I came face to face with him and he spoke to me. I said, “Hey! You aren’t stuttering!” They could not stop talking about God’s intervention and goodness. But according to Abigail there was a downside to it all. Robert never stopped talking for 45 minutes after that!  Doesn’t that sound just like a sister?  I love the banter. But more, I love that they are giving all the glory to God. He still has a way to go on some of the other symptoms from the concussion, but Robert told the doctor that the others will eventually go away but “at least I can talk.”  🙂

What a fantastic story to finish the week with don’t you think? And what a way to go into worship this weekend. Let that story encourage you that no problem is beyond His purview; no glitch is beyond His fixing; no obstacle is too big for Him to have it come crashing down.

“Thank you Father that you are still a God who performs miracles and astounds us with Your way. Wake us all up to Your majesty and power.”

Note: I wrote this on Wednesday and posted it for today. I wanted to encourage you. We will be on our way back from Ohio today so prayers would be appreciated, especially since I am in a rental vehicle due to the accident.

June 23

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Just a few short words this morning that are on my heart. One of the weapons of attack the enemy (Satan) uses against us is our words. More specifically, what we tell ourselves. The battle is tough enough and explosive enough without all the things we tell ourselves. A list but certainly not all of it:

  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “You will never amount to anything.”
  • “Who would want you if they really knew?”
  • “You are a fake, a liar and a hack.”
  • “You are a hypocrite.”

On and on it goes…where it stops nobody knows. The enemy gets inside our head with those ugly words. Worse. He gets in our heart. We start to believe his lies. It is one thing to endure failure, but the worst part of failure is usually the story we tell ourselves.

I don’t know how many times I have to beat that demon who says, “If they really knew Bill about the ‘secret sin’ or ‘secret thought,’ they wouldn’t listen to you. They wouldn’t give you time of day.”

Shame becomes a real problem. This coming Sunday I’m preaching on John 8 and the woman caught in adultery.  A life of shame, now made public with humiliation by some arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees. That shame did not matter to Jesus. That shame was never an issue. It was never seen. The forgiveness Jesus gave her never mentioned her shame. He never said, “Shame on you!”

All He did say to her was, “Where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

How much more clear can we get? He was telling her that her sin, her shame, her failure did not define her. His grace was bigger than her sin.

Now that! I can live by!!!

“Father, thank you for not seeing my shame and letting me wallow in it. Thank you for Your grace.”

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