God is serious about your sin

Pastor Robert Morris tells the story of a little boy who is standing up in the backseat of a car. The little boy’s dad tells his son Johnny to sit down but the little boy doesn’t. Then the dad says Johnny, can you hear me? And Johnny says yes I can hear you daddy. And the dad says I want you to sit down. And the little boy continues to stand. Then the dad said Johnny, you have disobeyed me and when we get home you’re going to get spanked. Pastor Morris says you would’ve thought Johnny’s legs disappeared that his butt hit the seat so fast. Pastor Morris said the first two times the little boy thought his dad was serious, the third time he knew his dad was serious.  He went another direction with the illustration, but it took me to the cross.

We live is a society that winks and nods when it comes to sin. We act as if God is OK with sin, or at least some sin.  Every one of us have certain sins we are willing to accept and others where we draw the line.  I could give examples here, but surely I do not have to.  You know at least a sin or two you are willing to overlook.  Likewise, so do I.  But God is willing to overlook none.  He takes any and all sin seriously.  And nobody is without sin.  How seriously does God take sin?  Even the sin we see as the most innocent, when we realize who it is perpetrated against – the perfect God of creation, is deserving of eternal punishment.  You may not believe that, but it does not matter what you believe.  The Bible says it is true.  God takes sin so seriously that He could not let it go without punishment.  Knowing we could not withstand the punishment due us, He sent Jesus to the cross to pay for sin.  Without Jesus, we would all pay for our sin with our own eternal deaths.  But thanks be to God that He made a way of escape.  Yet all will not escape.  The Bible says we will be saved if we will accept what Jesus did on the cross, and then pick up our own cross and follow Him.  Because of the cross, we know that our Father is serious.

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The God who loves you

I listened to a Robert Morris sermon this morning and it happened to be the one where he had come back to preach after a medical emergency four months earlier.  He had two arterial tears, was life flighted in a helicopter and everyone involved thought he was dying.  The truth is he never should have recovered.

He did not take a verse of Scripture and break it down and explain the meaning, which is truly one of his gifts. Instead he spoke of the emergency and he spoke of the things he knew of God that were reinforced through this life experience. He talked of the peace he had when he thought he was dying and of God’s goodness whether he lived or whether he died.  And he praised and thanked God for allowing him to remain here a little while longer to be with his family and church family.  He implored those who were listening to turn their lives over to God.

While it made me think about so many things in my own life, the reason I felt led to write about it today is this line I wrote in the previous paragraph, “…he spoke of the things he knew of God that were reinforced through this life experience.”  The basis of Pastor Robert Morris’ sermon after a four month absence from the pulpit, with all his intellectual Biblical wisdom, was to simply talk of the God He knew and the God who knew him.

I know there are many who read my blog who fight feelings of failure in different areas of life.  So do I.  I know there are many of you who believe you do not have the relationship with God you desire.  I am right there with you.  By His grace, you and I keep the hope that we will grow to know Him more and more over the years.  However, just for today, as I was reminded this morning, and I want to remind you: if you know the following, you already know the most important thing about Him.

  • There is a God who knows you.
  • He created you.
  • He loves you.
  • He sent His son to die on the cross to reconcile you to Himself.
  • He wants a relationship with you.
  • When you are willing to turn to Him and be forgiven, He does not see any failure in you.

I pray that you know and believe this and that for today, it is enough.

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Posted in depression, Obstacles, Opportunity, peace | Leave a comment

the right information

There is another Red Cross blood drive in Short Gap on October 9.  We recently received some flyers to advertise it, but the ads are wrong.  Some of the information is right.  The date and time is right, but the blood drive is not at the Short Gap Fire Hall.  It is at the Short Gap church.  We will certainly not put these flyers out in the community.  There will be new flyers printed and the right information will be posted in the area.  If you go to the Red Cross web site and search for a blood drive in the area they do have the right information.  If one wants to donate blood it is important to get the right information.  In this case, perhaps the ads are close enough that if someone got to Short Gap they would find the right place.

Other times the right information is more crucial. If the Mineral County dispatchers know they are sending our Short Gap ambulance staff into a covid situation, we need to know that. It might make us nervous and certain people may decide not to go on the call, but at least they can decide.  And we who do go will know to go with our full personal protective equipment along with taking other precautions we have learned in our training. The wrong information can be catastrophic for the crew causing quarantine or catching the Coronavirus.

I always remember a sermon from Pastor David Jeremiah when he was talking about getting the right information, even if it is sometimes hard to take. He said nobody wants a doctor who tells them everything is OK if everything is not OK.  As a pastor, I have no choice but to level with the congregation here at Wesley Chapel and with you.  The Bible says there is a way that seems right to people, but in the end it leads to death.  We are told there is a narrow way that few will find and that narrow way, and only that narrow way, leads to life.  Whatever the cost and whatever people think, it does no good to dilute the truth of repentance and to proclaim a broad path as the way of salvation.  Leonard Ravenhill said if Jesus preached the way most preachers preach today, they never would have killed Him for it.  If you hear that you must turn from your sin and follow Jesus, at least you can then decide for yourself.  You can “Choose this day whom you will serve.”  As for me, I will serve the Lord.  Where else could I go? He has the words of life.  That is the correct information.

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Building the Kingdom of God

The Washington Post just released an article on possible US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.  They included a quote from her time teaching at Notre Dame: “(a) legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God.”  While many people are opposed to anything regarding God, author and teacher Karen Swallow Prior had a great line: “Better to appoint/elect people who want to make hell on earth, I guess?”

This is one of those blogs that hyper-partisans will miss the point.  I am not arguing for or against Supreme Court justices in this post.  Do not miss the point: I am arguing for the Kingdom of God.  In an article on Christianity.com the author nicely summarizes the Kingdom of God as:

1. The rule of Jesus Christ on earth
2. The blessing and advantages that flow from living under Christ’s rule
3. The subjects of this kingdom which is the Church

Amy Coney Barrett is right.  Whatever we do is a means to the ultimate end of building the Kingdom of God for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31 reminds us that whatever we do, we do to the glory of God.  The whole reason Jesus leaves us here when we get saved and does not immediately pluck us from here and take us to heaven is so we can point others to the Kingdom of God.  And even more, #3 above reminds us that the church is Christ’s presence as the Kingdom of God on earth.  Everything we do is supposed to point people to Jesus, and more specifically the Lordship of Jesus.  The church calls people to humble themselves and pray, to repent, and to accept the God who accepts them.  Many people love the picture of Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb.  However, they balk when they are told that the rule of Jesus on earth means He is not just a prophet to be consulted, but the King to whom we submit. And #2 correctly states that there are blessings that we receive from obedience to Him.  Whatever people say about or however they ridicule or persecute Amy Coney Barrett for this quote, she will be blessed by the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Blessings that glow from putting Him first in her life.  So if she is chosen or if she is passed up as a Supreme Court justice, she can not lose if building the Kingdom of God is her end game.

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Nothing hanging over you today

In the UMC we have something called a “charge conference” in the fall of each year.  It is meeting that is basically a level above a monthly church meeting.  The district superintendent comes and we approve the pastor’s salary, budget, and church leadership for the next year.  We had ours last night.  A pastor is always relieved when it is over because it means a whole bunch of paperwork is behind you for another year.  Some people will not have theirs for a couple more months – until just before Thanksgiving.  The paperwork is still hanging over them.

Sometimes as Christians we act as if our proverbial charge conference is coming up.  We act as if things from our past are still “hanging over us” when we should be relieved that they are actually behind us.  Yesterday is gone.  And if you have repented and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, yesterday’s failures are also gone. Today is a new day.  His mercies are new every morning.  We are forgiven.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death.… ~ Romans 8:1-2

Do not allow home schooling, conflicts on social media, or pressures of this world steal your joy today.  We are free… free to do our best and know that is enough in Christ.  There is nothing that will matter in eternity hanging over us as sons and daughters of the King.  Take a breath and let that thought soak in today.

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Posted in depression, Opportunity, peace | Leave a comment

Today I get to preach a funeral

Today I get to preach Dan Lunch’s funeral.  I know it sounds weird to say “get to”.  But I have come to realize that people are most interested in hearing about hope at times like these.  People are looking for assurance that their hope is not in vain.  Looking back, I believe it is one of the primary reasons God led me to be an EMT.  Imagine being in the back of an ambulance and praying with a person at their wits end or that has just suffered a tragedy, that today would be the day that God would perform a miracle.  It is quite an honor and opportunity.  That is why I say I “get to” preach Dan Lynch’s funeral today.  This picture of Dan and me is one of my favorite pictures of all time.  I do not often look manly, but here we are – “Bros with chain saws”.  That day is a great memory.  We were helping solve the drainage problem that had persisted for years at the church.  I do not remember who took the picture.  Nobody takes pictures like this any more.  It is all selfies today.

Four years ago this month when this picture was taken, Dan and I were working for the glory of God and God was working on us.  God was preparing us for this season and for this day.  God is always doing something.  He is amazing.  He is gracious.  He is loving.  And today, I get to tell Dan’s family that because of his faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished for Dan on the cross of Calvary, I know that I know that Dan is rejoicing in the presence of the one who created him.  Can you see why I would say today I get to preach a funeral?

P.S. – It is also a good reminder that one day someone will preach yours and someone will preach mine.

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Posted in Hard times, peace, salvation | Leave a comment

I know it is not very Christian of me, but…

Last night I was at the JV football game.  While very few people are allowed to attend due to Coronavirus restrictions, an ambulance on scene is considered essential at high school football games.  I was part of the two person Short Gap ambulance crew last night.  It is one way, especially in this season of Coronavirus, that I can serve as a pastor in this great community.  As an added bonus, I got a catch phrase and basis for a sermon series when someone who stopped to talk prefaced an opinion with the phrase, “I know it is not very Christian of me, but…”  I have heard that said hundreds of times, but last night I immediately thought, “That will preach”.  I even told the person so.  He said if I hung around him much, I’d get plenty more material!

It would be nice if we could write that on mean spirited or purposefully argumentative Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts.  Instead of writing something that causes us to get into an argument on social media, we could just comment, #IKnowItIsNotVeryChristianOfMeBut… And I say mean spirited or purposefully argumentative because the Gospel itself will offend people and we must not shrink from that. But we also are not to just go out looking for fights on social as I see some professed followers of Jesus doing.  #IKnowItIsNotVeryChristianOfMeBut… I would love to name names right here!!!!!

Without a doubt, we all have our, “I know it is not very Christian of me, but…” moments, whether we say it or not.  We are all still a work in progress.  I am thankful that Jesus paid for my sins once and for all.  And while it is true that I am forgiven for it all – past, present, and future, I also do not want to use that as an excuse to act and react in unChristian ways.  If I do it is basically the same as saying, “Since I am forgiven anyhow, I can… (insert sin here).”  I am not so sure there is not some kind of price to pay for that way of thinking as the Bible certainly warns against it.  When we have done and said things that we know do not reflect well as representatives of Jesus, perhaps instead of starting with an excuse, we should end it with, “Lord, help me do better.”

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Experts fear it could get worse

I was reading an article this morning on CNBC about the Coronavirus.  The headline contained the words “disturbing data” and “growing in 11 states”.  Buried within the article, but certainly not highlighted, was the fact that nationwide daily new cases are down 50% from a few weeks ago.  We are all aware by now that the internet is all about “clicks”.  Advertisers pay CNBC, the Weather Channel, ESPN, and everyone else based on the number of people who go to their web sites or watch their channels.  Of course, that means whatever they have to write to get you to click, they will write.  A line in the article said, “health officials fear the outbreak could get worse”.  Undoubtedly, there are other experts who they could have quoted who believe things are improving and will continue to do so.  But the media in our society specializes in and profits from bad news.  “It could get worse” keeps people tuned in.

Did you know Jesus once told someone things could get worse?  In John chapter 5 we are told that Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda.  Then the Scripture says, “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.  The lame man had finally been healed after 38 years, but the Expert feared things could still get worse for the man.  Jesus warned the man because He wanted the man to stop sinning.  He did not want something worse to happen to the man.

This is a message I will probably preach one day after our 15 weeks of the Psalms of Ascent.  And it will be a lot more indepth and controversial than this blog post. But for now, remember that while the Bible warns that things will keep getting worse, it is a warning to help us.  When the media warns you about things, take it with a grain of salt because it is usually to help themselves.  When a preacher warns you about things from the Bible, it is to help you.  So ask yourself, who really cares more about you than Jesus, who is willing to warn you for your own good?

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Posted in depression, peace | 1 Comment

So hard to receive grace

Yesterday I wrote about a young man staying with us for a few months while he does an internship as an occupational therapist at a local business.  In the midst of writing that I so wanted to go another direction, but instead saved that idea for today.  He is a conscientious young man who wants to help in whatever ways he can.  I feel guilty leaving a fork or dish in the sink because he shows up and washes it.  With Diane gone this week, I have not yet shared the plate, bowl, utensil philosophy I employ when she is away.  (I use one plate, one fork, one spoon, and one bowl.  I clean each after I use it and put it in the dish drain.)

Diane and I feel called by God to treat him like one of our own sons.  We will keep stuff in the fridge and freezer for him, we want him to pack a lunch from home to save money, we want to provide him with bottled water and PowerAde, etc.  We ask him if he needs us to pick anything up at the store, but he always says no.  On the other hand, I know I would be just like him if I were in his situation.  I told him yesterday that I blogged about him and that I was going to blog about him again to talk about grace.

So many of us can not stand the thought of not earning our way.  We hate to ask for help.  We are self sufficient.  We are not willing to admit our need.  I remember a time back in Mason County when Sally told me a certain day that her husband Ralph was going to be working on the roof of their shed.  She told me that Ralph would never ask, but if I was not busy she would appreciate it if I would stop by and lend a hand if I just happen to be in the area… wink-wink.

It so hard for so many of us to accept something without feeling the need for a “pay back”.  We act as if it is so simple to become a Christian, but in reality it is one of the most difficult things to do.  It is difficult because we must accept something for nothing. God offers to save us by His grace, not by our efforts.  And there is no other way.  We must humble ourselves before Him, admit our helplessness and need, and only then are we ready to receive salvation.  It is one of the things Jesus surely meant when He said to inherit the Kingdom of God we must become like a child.  A child is not too proud to take your last french fry at McDonald’s or say yes to the last piece of pizza when you ask, “Does anyone want this last piece of pizza?” as you are picking it up.

Grace is a kingdom with gates open wide
There’s a seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside
~ Matthew West, Broken Things

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God loves you this much

Diane and I have a house guest.  I do not mean a cat or dog… or even a squirrel in the attic.  We do have a cat, but he is no longer a guest.  We have a young man staying with us who is completing his final few months of college by doing practicals at X-Cel Performance and Rehab.  He is the friend of a friend who was helping him look for a place in the Short Gap area.  He was down to a couple of weeks before he had to begin and was growing a little anxious about where he would be staying.  Naturally, as a student he had a low budget.  God had already had Diane and I considering the idea of hosting a student.

He and his fiance came up a few weeks ago to meet us and to see where he would be staying.  While they were here I told them about the remodel of our basement.  Last summer Diane asked the trustees about having the carpet in the basement of the parsonage replaced.  It was a very old, thin carpet glued to a concrete floor.  Then I said I had always wondered about adding a bathroom in the basement.  If we were ever going to do it, this would be the time. The parsonage had 1 1/2 bathrooms, both upstairs.  One thing led to another and our church resident “do it all” Artie “Butch” Strietbeck with his hard working grandson Brendan (and a little help from his friends) did a remarkable bathroom in the basement.  Then we laid a new floor, painted the dark paneling, and the makeover was complete.  It is like a beautiful little studio apartment with an added mini fridge and microwave.

After I explained the remodel, I told them to think of it this way:  In the Spring of 2019, a year and a half ago, God was already working on meeting this young man’s need.  It is abundantly more than he could have even thought to ask for.  It is just over a mile away from work, it has its own private entrance, it is newly remodeled, and it is free.  I said, “Think about how much God must love you to have done all this for you. He had it all taken care of before you even knew of your need.”

It reminds me of one of the best lines in any song.  Danny Gokey sings, “He had the solution…before you had the problem.”  Whatever it is that burdens you, I can promise you if you cling to Jesus, it will not defeat you.  He already knows how He is going to provide for you and bring you through it.  But it is up to you… you have to turn to Him, trust Him, and cling to Him.  And believe the Scripture is true:

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:19

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Posted in depression, Hard times | Leave a comment