A little yeast…or baking powder

Last week I made biscuits. I am not talking about canned or frozen biscuits, but homemade biscuits. I always bought frozen pucks and baked them, and they were pretty good, but they are so expensive! One time I decided to try scratch biscuits and I could not believe how easy they were. I never looked back. Some flour, salt, butter, milk, and baking powder, and BAM. Homemade scratch biscuits.

Baking powder is the leavening agent that makes the biscuit dough rise. To rise, all dough needs a “leavening” agent. For bread, yeast is used. The interesting thing about bread dough is that sometimes you are told to let it rise, punch it down, and then it will rise again. That made me think of the life of a Christian and the Church during this pandemic as we have all felt punched down again and again.

This pandemic seems to be accelerating the decline of cultural Christianity. Cultural Christianity is a religion of convenience. Anything that makes following Jesus inconvenient stops the movement, if you could even call it a movement. You could also call it nominal Christianity or lukewarm Christianity. People looking for an excuse to stay home from church now have a good one. People who want to gather with the body to worship Jesus have not quit doing so for the last year and a half as enough churches have held “outside church” from the beginning of the pandemic. In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus says the church is meant to be an unstoppable force, but to stop the American church, all you need to do is change the worship time. Or I might add “begin meeting outside.”

Actually, the pandemic has not stopped the church. The pandemic has only served to make what remains of the church more committed and concentrated. We have ended up with a smaller group of people, but a group willing to gather under less than ideal circumstances, like most of the Christians in the world do every Sunday. I cannot wait to see what the Lord does with what remains of the faithful in America. And I do not just mean faithful in attendance and finances, but faithful to historic Christianity.

I realize some of you reading this may feel like I am calling you or others out as lukewarm. I am not. If you feel angered by this post, you need to ask yourself if it might be the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If you have a legitimate reason for not gathering with other believers, or for anything else related to your faithfulness to God, then you have peace about that with Him. And if you are upset because you feel like you have grown distant from God through this, then turn to the Lord. He is always waiting with open arms. He is faithful. He welcomes you back.

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The recipe is as follows: Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp salt. Use a bladed pastry blender to cut 1 1/2 sticks butter, add to dry ingredients and continue chopping in until it’s mixed in (crumbly, butter barely noticeable). Add 1 1/2 cups milk. Mix together, not over mixing. Place on floured surface folding it over on itself 6 times or so. Flatted by hand to 3/4 inch. Cut with biscuit cutter, straight down, not turning cutter. Bake on parchment paper, biscuits placed about an inch apart, at 425 for 13 minutes. (Placing butter in freezer for 10 minutes before you start is a good tip. Keep milk cold. If you’re making multiple batches, put milk back in fridge in between use.)

Posted in Hard times, Obstacles, Opportunity, Walking the Walk | 3 Comments

The proper place

I have a shamrock plant in the office that someone gave me a few years ago. I had it on a shelf with limited light, obstructed by a big banana tree. Truth be told, I have probably kept it watered just enough to keep it from dying. A couple of weeks ago I placed it in a larger pot and moved it to a better spot. The transformation has been remarkable with larger leaves and flowers fighting their way out of the greenery. The plant has responded well to a little nurturing.

It is a good reminder to me that when things do not seem to be flourishing, it is usually because they are not receiving the proper attention. Think about it: grades at school, marriages, personal health, automobiles… none of them excel without some proper attention, some work, and/or some TLC. The effort we put in to things usually dictates the result we can expect. We should not be surprised when we receive a poor outcome from something we have neglected.

The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. Any time we feel distant from Him is undoubtedly because we have been distant from Him, because we have neglected Him. He said He will never leave you nor forsake you. If we give Him the proper place in our lives, everything other area of our lives will see a benefit.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:19

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Christy Wilson and the Chaos in Kabul

“When Satan fell to earth, he fell in Kabul”—Oft-quoted Afghan proverb No matter what your politics may be, the images coming out of Afghanistan this…

Christy Wilson and the Chaos in Kabul
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New tools

Tools of the Trade

Yesterday a friend called and said he had been stung on the ring finger and his finger was swelling to the point that he needed his wedding ring cut off. He asked if we had a way to do that at the fire department. I told him I was pretty sure we did, but I could not remember the specifics. After contacting others with more knowledge than me, I was told where the tool was on the ambulance. I met the person there and was able to cut the ring off. I definitely learned a new skill for the ambulance. But then again I am always learning. It was a year ago Saturday that I found out I passed the National Registry test to become an EMT. One year into it I have learned and done a lot. But there are also a lot of things I have not done. I have not given epinephrine. I have not used some of the breathing and airway instruments. I know I have the training and those things are within my protocols, but I have yet to be in a position to need to implement those practices.

That makes me think about where I am in my journey as a follower of Jesus and as a pastor in His church. Wednesday will mark eight years to the day since I preached my first sermon at Wesley Chapel Short Gap. It will also be the beginning my 15th year as a pastor, my 9th year here. None have been tougher than the last year. As I take a quick survey looking back over the last 14 years it seems like I have been using the same basic tools. Like the tools I have not yet used on the ambulance, I know there are more that I have at my disposal, but have yet to utilize. I sense that it is going to be necessary to ask the Holy Spirit to do some maintenance on the old tools and teach me to use some new tools from His arsenal for the next few years. I know it is not going to get any easier, but I pray He continues to prepare and equip me for that which is to come. I pray the same for you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23a

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Meant For More

For years, maybe even a couple of decades now, I’ve felt that I was meant for more. Never quite knowing in what manner however. Was I meant to be a …

Meant For More
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Power of God

“If you’re like me, you have experienced a few moments sitting in the ashes while your whole world seemed to crash around you.”

Kintsugi

“He sat down in the ashes” after his whole life had crashed. — Job 2:8

The ocean is an amazing place to be. The power and majesty it holds demands respect. I was privileged enough to spend a week at the beach, resting in God’s creation. As the week passed on, the ocean grew more and more angry as a tropical depression moved in.

On the last day I was there, I sat just observing and listening to the sounds of the great waves beating the shoreline. In the midst of the crashes, I could almost hear the roar of God making His presence known. I’m certain, if given the chance, I could have sat there all night listening to Him.

While sitting there, I noticed a little sandcastle a small child had built earlier. He was so very proud. I remember him chattering to his family to “look!!” But…

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The lost cicada

In our area of WV we have been listening to cicadas for a couple few weeks now. Those are without a doubt among the strangest of creatures. This brood lives in the ground for 17 years and then emerges for about a month and a half while they make babies that soon drop in to the ground and live for 17 years. I was 42 the last time they were around and will be, God willing, 76 the next time they appear.

The other day after an ambulance call, there was one was making the noise it makes in the engine bay at the fire station. You probably know the males make the noise to attract a female. The prospects for the one in the engine bay are not looking good. It is not that there is anything wrong with his call, as it was impressive. The problem is when he flew in to the fire station through the open door (or hitched a ride on the ambulance) he put himself in a position in which it will be nearly impossible to succeed. To find a mate, he will almost certainly have to take advantage of an open door when one becomes available. Otherwise, he will live out the rest of his days in vain, never knowing why a mate was not found. Think about that – waiting 17 years for the opportunity to fulfill your purpose only to put yourself in a situation that makes it practically impossible.

The Westminster Catechism, from the mid 1600’s, says that people have a purpose as well. It says “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Unfortunately, like this particular cicada, we have through our sin, put ourselves in a position that makes it nearly impossible for us to succeed. The Westminster Catechism says, “All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.” If we have any chance of escape, we must take advantage of the open door that is Jesus, who died on the cross and rose from the dead on our behalf. Then, again according to the WC “…God’s Spirit (convinces) us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”

The other day on Facebook I shared a part of one of John Wesley’s letters in which he wrote, “I see a danger you are in, which perhaps you do not see yourself.” Once we confess our sin and turn to Jesus for salvation, we then realize that from which we have been saved and the danger others are in. Knowing what we know, how unloving do we have to be to let others go on like the cicada, hopelessly searching for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in their sin? How unloving do we have to be to allow others to continue down the path of destruction to face God’s wrath?

If you know in your heart there is something more. If you know you were created for more… If God is revealing to you today that you are being called to turn from your sin and cast them all upon the cross of Jesus, run as fast as you can through the open door – tell him you are sorry for your sin, ask Him to forgive you and to help you live for Him. And celebrate the freedom of forgiveness, knowing you will now fulfill your purpose of “Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.”

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Thanks for reminding me to not give up

This morning I worked for a couple of hours on a blog post. As I was finishing it, I realized what the Lord was giving me was not the blog post for today, but was instead the perfect ending for this coming Sunday’s sermon. I am disappointed because I cannot share it today. I almost did anyway, titling it “Spoiler Alert for Sunday’s Sermon”. Instead, I will use this morning’s experience and disappointment to post another thought.

I will chalk this morning up to being a reminder of my human limitations and God’s limitless wisdom and power. I need those reminders. They help me with my humility. It is so easy to forget that when I question God’s ways or God’s Word I am like a three year old questioning a parent who smacks my fingers for trying to stick a fork in an electric outlet. Do I believe that God created the universe and everything in it? Do I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins? Have I accepted His free gift of salvation? Do I trust Him? My answer to all those questions is yes. And this morning when I set out in the darkness to write, God knew I was writing the end of Sunday’s sermon. I did not know that until I was about 90% finished. And that is the synopsis of my walk with Jesus. I keep walking, thinking He is doing one thing, only to find out later He is doing much more. Knowing this, how in the world can I give up or give up hope on the things of God halfway through them when experience tells me that God is doing much more than I can see? Thanks for this reminder today, God.

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When things appear to be spinning out of control

Diane will not buy any bread but Schmidt Baking’s 647 bread and buns. It is called 647 because the bread has 6 net carbs, 40 calories, and 7 grams of fiber. On a recent pack there was an ink smear on the back of the bag. I took a picture and sent it to Colby Simpson, our friendly neighborhood bread man. I asked him why they started putting scary faces on the packaging. All he could say was, “lol”. We both knew it was not a scary face and was not put there on purpose.

Every once in a while I see something like this ink mark that reminds me that things are not always what they appear – – and I am thankful. These moments remind me that in this world, even though things often appear as though they are out of control, they are not. God is still on the throne. That is one of the best sentences we can tell ourselves. “God is still on the throne”. And He is always doing something good, no matter how things appear.

A.W. Tozer puts it this way in The Knowledge of the Holy: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.”

O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things. The world had been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me. For Christ’s sake. Amen.

A.W. Toxer in The Pursuit of God

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Getting from “does He” to “He does”

This morning I was checking in with a friend who has a big life event coming up and the Lord put it on my mind to text them this morning. In the conversation one text I wrote was, “You have a lot of life left to live for God’s glory…” I looked at it. It looked good. After I clicked “send” I saw that the phone changed it to “Do you have a lot of life yet to live for God’s glory.” There is a big difference between “Do you” and “You do”. “Do you” is a question. “You do” is a statement.

There is a song, “Is He Worthy?” co-written and recorded by Andrew Peterson then later recorded by Chris Tomlin. The entire song is a bunch of back and forth questions that require answers:
“Do you…”- – -“We do…”
“Is He…”- – -“He is…”
“Does He…” – – – “He does…”

Many times throughout life we ask questions. Things we do not understand make us wonder. Things that make no sense make us doubt. We ask a whole lot of “why” questions.

The song culminates with a resounding, “He is… He is… He is worthy, He is worthy… He is.” There is no longer any question. The conclusion has arrived: He is worthy of all blessing and honor and glory. God has answered the questions that matter most. Does He love us? He does. How do we know? While we were yet sinners, He sent Jesus to die on the cross to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him. Can we trust Him? We can. The only questions that remain are
Do you believe this?
Have you trusted Him to save you?
I hope that you can say, “I do” and “I have”.

Below is a link to the song sung by the two of them together.

Posted in depression, Hard times, Obstacles, Opportunity, salvation, trust | 2 Comments