Grace

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October 21

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

I recently finished a book by Tony Evans called Kingdom Heroes. It was based on Hebrews 11 and the heroes of the faith written about there. One of those heroes was an unlikely person-a woman named Rahab.

Rahab is first mentioned in Joshua 2 where she harbored the Jewish spies in Jericho. She listened to her own people talk about the God who was doing powerful things and she believed what they said. She hid the spies and then helped them escape, but not before she had secured the safety of her and her family when the Israelites came for Jericho. We know from Matthew 1 that it was successful; she married Salmon; they had Boaz (husband to Ruth); who had Jesse, the father of David.

All of that is a wonderful testimony to God’s plan and protection.  But the story of Rahab is also a testimony of grace unlimited. In our human way of thinking, could there be anyone more undeserving of God’s grace than a prostitute? But in God’s way of thinking could there be anyone more in need of it? And while we may say yes to the undeserving part, we must also recognize that if God did it for her, what does that say about us? To me, it only says one thing: grace is for me too. Abundant grace. I may not be a prostitute, but I am a sinner.  A sinner in need of grace. God can and has taken people with bad reputations, with those society (and the church) think are too far gone and restored them. He transforms even the sloppiest, dirtiest, and most sinful people into “trophies” for His hall of faith.

May I be one of them.

“Father, I thank you a thousand times over for your marvelous grace. You showed that grace in Rahab’s life. You show it in mine. May I be a testimony to that.”

October 5

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

It was 1:00 a.m. I was awake.  I was uncomfortable (I’ll tell you why in a mom). But even in my discomfort a word came to me “out-of-the-blue.” Blessed. It got me thinking (yes, even at that time in the morning).

One of my favorite people (whom I have never met in person) is a woman from Georgia named Martha. She blogs at http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com/2021/10/be-lifted-up.html. She ends every comment on my blog (and others) with “Blessings.”

Our local sheriff, Sam, is a Christ-follower. You ask him how he is doing and he will answer, “I’m blessed.”

My secretary, Diana, has a t-shirt she likes to wear: “Blessed and highly caffeinated.” Since she drinks very little coffee, I suspect it is the “Blessed” she likes.

Jesus used that word “Blessed” 9 times in the Sermon on the Mount. They are called the Beatitudes.

This past Saturday as I was walking from gassing up my truck to the store to get my change and to meet Jo to get something to drink, a car backed into me and knocked me over. My left hand slammed the pavement and immediately was on fire. I now have the black and blue and sore hand to prove it (hence the 1 a.m. discomfort). Of course, they both got out of the car to see how I was and to apologize. As I waiting in line (I think in a little bit of shock), the man came into the store to see if I was okay. I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well, God bless you.”

As I was driving down the interstate a few moments later (and after the reality of what had happened dawned on me…my hand reminded me), I told Jo what he said. I then said, “I wish I had been more with it because I would have said to him, ‘He has. He does. He will.'”  But I didn’t. I didn’t even think of it. And since they are from Rhode Island I doubt I ever will (unless I see them in heaven).

In spite of the pain in life; in spite of the stumbles and falls; in spite of the missteps; in spite of the times of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness and abandonment which sometimes invades our space, we are blessed. 

I know I am.  It just takes me taking my eyes off of me and my circumstances and looking at Jesus to realize I am blessed beyond measure.

So are you. Do you know that?

“Father, help me to see how blessed I really am.”

August 19

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

I went to a funeral visitation of a friend last night.

A brief bit of background:

I was the pastor of a church in Terre Haute, IN from 1987-2000. During my time there I performed a lot of weddings and funerals. With that amount of time in one place, one is bound to do weddings and funerals that overlap. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. This family was one of them. This was a big family and I was trying to calculate how many. I gave up. I was even asked back once, after moving to Spencer, to perform a funeral for the family.

The lady I honored last night was one of the 4 or 5 sisters. She had been divorced for several years when I first met her and she had met a man who captured her. Their marriage was a dream one for her, when one morning about a year after the wedding she woke up to him making a loud noise in the bathroom. Dropping things and just making all kinds of racket. He had suffered a stroke that totally affected his right side. No more speech. No more use of his right arm.  A metal brace on his right leg, knee to ankle. But she stayed with him. I’d visit and although he could not communicate verbally, he talked with his eyes or shook his head. She loved him well. Sometime after I left she had no choice but to put him in a home. She could no longer take care of him.

She died having dementia. I spoke with her daughter as we stood at the casket. I married she and her husband in 2000, and then as he put it: “You hi-tailed it out of town.” Not really, of course. Like me he is a pastor and loves to joke. That sounds like I was John Dillinger-rob a bank and then get out of Dodge. 🙂   Her then 9-ear old daughter is now 30, married with a child of her own. Sheesh! Am I that old?  Well, yes. I have been gone for 21 years this past June.

Her daughter captured it right: “I am sad for me, but not for mom. She’s having a big reunion, a big party in heaven.” That captures my sentiments. Paul wrote, “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” The answer? For the follower of Christ the answer is ZERO.

When it comes to Linda, death you lost. When it came to my mom, you lost. When it comes to me, you will lose again.

“Father, thank you for salvation. Thank you for the promise of heaven and eternal life with you.”

August 9

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Okay…slap me with a wet noodle. I didn’t post last Friday. We made a quick trip to Ohio and left Wednesday morning and returned Friday. Rather than throw a devotion together AND try to do it on my phone, I decided not to do anything. But if I was going to post, the following was on my mind.

As followers of Christ we are told to:

Hurt when others hurt.

Cry when others cry.

Laugh when others laugh.

Rejoice when others rejoice.

Love because we are loved.

Show grace because we have been shown grace.

Comfort when others hurt.

The reality is that God often puts us in hard places or takes us through hard moments so that we will be ready when others go through hard moments. When their heart cries out for comfort, we are ready, because our hearts once cried out for comfort.

I think of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “For such a time as this…”  And who knows? All the junk we went through; all the pain we experienced; all the tears; were not wasted just on us. Perhaps it was for us to have a heart that hears and listens and responds to another’s heart cry. Lessons learned were never meant to be kept to ourselves. They are sometimes a path for us to guide a fellow struggler.  Don’t waste the pain or the lessons by keeping them to yourself.

“Father, may I be open to using my pain and heartache to help someone else experiencing that same difficulty.

August 4

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

I love the picture of adoption. The Bible speaks in several places about adoption. (Romans 8: 15,23; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:3)

 I have a brother and sister-in-law who adopted Lia from China in 2003. We have one family in the church who adopted 2 girls from China at different times-one a baby and one who was 9 or 10 years old.  That latter young lady just graduated from high school as did my niece!  (They are getting old but not me!)

So many others could tell stories of adoption. Despite what some evil proponents will say, they were not “colonizing” anyone. They wanted the opportunity to either fill their empty arms or to give a chance to someone who would not have had one. Is it colonization when someone born with a severe cleft palate deformity is adopted and given a chance? A new hope? I think not.

The picture of adoption finds its real beauty in the story of God adopting us, taking us from a life of hopelessness and lostness (I know that is not a word), and being made part of a family. A forever family. All the rights and privileges of being a member of a family are ours. Just as the adopted child is given a new home and new last name, so are we in God’s adoption.

While I was not adopted physically, nor did Jo and I adopt a child physically, I appreciate God’s adoption of me. All rights and privileges, inheritance and blessings are mine. I’m glad God loved me and adopted me and made me His child by welcoming into His family.

“Father, thank you seems such an inadequate way to express how I feel. But I want to say ‘Thank You’ for adopting me into Your forever family.”

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.