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.”

Kyrie Eleison

“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.

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For the glory of God

Today I am wearing a shirt that many people would throw away. These fire department shirts were very new when the Covid hit early last year. but this one looks old because it has bleach spots on it. I also have an orange Samaritan’s Purse shirt from a mission trip that has a white paint roller splat on the back from where JoLynn Sullivan purposely whacked me on the back with a loaded paint roller. In her defense, it may or may not have been a retaliatory strike 😉 I wear both the “paint roller” shirt and the “bleach spot” shirts in public, likely against my dear wife’s wishes. Both shirts are special to me because I know how the imperfections got on the shirts. The bleach spots got on this shirt when I was on an ambulance call. After taking a patient to UPMC Western Maryland I went to a designated area to clean the stretcher. Typically, they graciously provide us with sanitizing wipes, but wipes became scarce last year during Covid, and they provided us with a bottle of bleach water. You can put two and two together…

A bottle of bleach water + a dark shirt + a little carelessness = bleach spots.

I have other shirts and shoes that have special meanings to me. I have two pair of shoes that belonged to a troubled man who tragically died under dire circumstances. I purposely wear a pair of those shoes on mission trips and it makes me think of all the events, both good and bad that led those shoes to be on my feet in Texas or Haiti or wherever I happen to be.

I see the hand of God in all of the clothing, not in the clothes themselves, but in their stories and their use for His glory. It is my hope that people will see His purpose, provision, redemption in my own life, for His glory.

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That face looks familiar

Last night I went to the church to check on things as I do nearly every night. I saw something unusual at the edge of the parking lot so I went to investigate. It turns out it was a pretty good sized frog, bigger than my fist. I immediately wondered if it could be one of the tadpoles I saved last year (you can read about them here.) Well, of course it cold be one. Of any of the frogs I have seen in the last year, this one looks the most like those little 1 inch frogs that fled a year ago. Is it one? I admit it is very unlikely. There is no way to know what the little guys would look like today. But it is possible that I was face to face with a little tadpole I saved.

Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror and when I think about what I see, I cannot believe the old man I see in the mirror is me. We think most others our age look old, but I think most of us still think of ourselves as the younger version. of who we are. If I continue to live in this life, I know it will only get worse. Every year the man in the mirror keeps looking older and older.

But one day, this life will end and when it does I will be face to face with the one who saved me. When that day comes, I want to have lived these days as one who was constantly preparing for that day, hoping to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. I am not hoping to live a life worthy of my salvation. I can never earn that. But I want to spend my life living it in such a way that expresses my thanks for what Jesus did for me. That is why I do what I do – not to earn anything, but to express my thanks for what I freely received.

One day, you will also be face to face with the One who created you. Will He recognize you?

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He can do anything

Diane was at the beach last week and took a picture of the sunrise on the beach and the full moon in the sky in the opposite direction, both in the sky at the same time. When there is a full moon, the quick explanation is that the earth and moon are positioned so that the earth is not blocking the sun’s light from reaching the entire moon. There is always an entire moon there, but most times the sunlight is only reaching part of it, due to the earth blocking the sunlight. When we say “full moon”, what we mean is it is fully illuminated.

In the pictures Diane took, they look about the same size. We all know that the sun and the moon both usually look larger on the horizon and smaller when they make it high in the sky. In general, though, they do appear to be about the same size. I can imagine the first people to see the two would have assumed they were the same size. Through science, we came realize the the sun is much bigger…much, much bigger. Most of us do not realize how much bigger. The radius (the distance from the center of a circle to the edge) of the sun is 400 times the size of the moon, This means that its volume is 400 × 400 × 400 times the volume of the moon, which makes it 64 million times larger than the moon. That is an incomprehensible difference. Still, when we look into the sky they look to be about the same. I hope I am not losing you, I am almost done with numbers! The easiest explanation is that we are 93 million miles away from the sun. The moon is “only” about a quarter of a million miles from the earth. So the sun is about 375 times further away than the moon.

Now think about this. There is a God who made it all. He placed the earth just the right distance from the sun to sustain life. He placed the moon the distance necessary from the earth to control the ocean tides. He said, “Let there be light” and a big ball of fire appeared. He is a big, big God. I have seen it written, “Don’t tell God how big your problem is. Tell your problem how big your God is.” So whatever your problems, take them to Him. He’s more awesome and amazing and “big” than we can imagine. He can do anything.

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