Like a mosquito to a bug zapper

I am often in the church kitchen, so much so that I frequently call it my office.  I will be in there today preparing Chicken Parmesan for tonight’s dinner.  Sometimes a fly will get in to the church kitchen, and I cannot stand flies.  Sometimes I get out a fly swatter.  Other times I turn off all the lights and open the kitchen door leaving the screen door closed.  99% of the time when I do this they fly will soon be buzzing against the screen.  I then open the screen and watch the fly go outside.  The flies cannot help themselves.  It is in their nature to go toward the light.  (It is certainly not the exit sign that attracts them.)  I know how to make the flies do what I want, which is to exit the kitchen.

Just like I know the nature of the flies to go toward the light, the Bible tells us that humans tend to head toward the dark, or what is wrong.  We are drawn to the wrong like a mosquito is drawn to a bug zapper.  And the enemy of God knows how to manipulate us to do what is wrong.  Yet, every once in a while someone breaks free from the snare of the enemy.  AW Tozer put it this way:

Of course, people resent any word reflecting on them, but every once in a while there appears an awakened soul. Some way or another this person got awake. Somehow God Almighty wakened him or her, whether by the crowing of the rooster or by the braying of Balaam’s donkey. This person ceases to be mediocre and somnolent and becomes a blazing, shining light.

To be aware of our natural inclination and to understand that our hearts cannot be trusted is half the battle.  If you can believe that last sentence, then perhaps you are or can be one of the awakened souls.  Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  My prayer for you today is that you are not headed toward the devil’s traps, but instead that your soul has been or will be shaken and awakened and you are headed toward the light of Christ, seeking those things which are above.

I cannot get enough of Matt Maher singing “Awake my soul and sing…”  I offer it to you for a moment of worship.

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

This morning I noticed a flowering weed poking up out of a crack in the concrete in the back stairwell of the church.  I could not help but think of the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted”.  I am convinced that wherever we are or whatever we are doing, God is pleased when we do what we do for His glory.  Pastors, and especially United Methodist pastors can find this difficult.  It was not too many years ago that the average stay at a particular church for a UMC pastor was less than three and a half years.  It may be a little longer now, but there are still some churches and pastors that see an all too frequent turnover.  Diane and I will be blessed to soon begin our seventh year in Short Gap.  When we arrived, we knew our job.  Our job is to live and love like we will be here forever, even as we know we serve at the will of the bishop and are assigned one year at a time.  Diane sits on the board for a couple of local women’s recovery homes, she is a Wellness Ambassador for Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, she bakes special treats for some of her friends at the Union Rescue Mission, she is a graduate of a local university, Frostburg State University.  We are embedded in the community.  Short Gap is our home.  We know God has called us to bloom where we are, while we are here.

Monday nights our church hosts between 40-50 kids, many of whom have less than ideal home lives.  In discussions with the youth leader before the young people arrived last night, and hearing some of her heart hurts over kids not wanting to go home when the youth night is over, we shared with her a phrase Pastor Benjamin Wells shared with us one time.  He is a campus pastor at Marshall University and was sharing about how he just has young college people for a season.  He said his job is to “love them in the moment”.  As I see it, Diane has made that her life’s mission.  Wherever she is, there she is.  Wherever we are, our job is to bloom for God’s glory.  It hurts when the time comes for a new season, just as it did six years ago when we left the Ohio River valley for the mountains of the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.  But there is no other way to live.

We know young parents who would love to go on mission trips with us, but their job is currently to glorify God by raising their kids.  We know more mature folks who are blooming and glorifying God as they care for elderly parents.  One of our financial secretaries is doing some paperwork in the church right now with a toddler and a baby in tow, for the glory of God.

My prayer for you is that whatever season you find yourself in right now, in a growing season or in a tough, barren wilderness, that you would give God the glory by blooming where you are today.  Be a fragrant addition to wherever you are.  I pray that you would find peace as you live for the glory of God in whatever season you find yourself.

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Posted in Hard times, Opportunity | Leave a comment

Whatever it takes to get to Jesus

At a recent church function I was walking through the hallway and came upon a little girl who would not be denied a drink at the water fountain.  I know kids like to drink at water fountains.  This particular little girl was going to do whatever it took to sip from it.  She was perched on the dehumidifier getting a cool drink of water.

Today is Easter.  In the pre-dawn hours there were some women who were going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.  They did not know how they were going to get to Jesus.  There was a stone too big for them to move blocking the entrance to the tomb.  But they went.  They were not going to be denied.

In my prayers for friends and family who are far from Jesus, my prayer is always, “Lord, do whatever it takes to cause them to turn to You, but be as gentle as You can.”  It often takes a valley for us to seek the light.  My prayer for you this Easter is that you would be constantly seeking Jesus today and throughout the rest of the year.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. ~ Hebrews 11:6

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We’re all impacted by the cross

It has been over a month since my last blog post.  And typically my blog is taking an everyday thing and putting a Jesus spin on it.  Today it’s not cute, but rather a simple warning.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” ~ Mark 8:34-45

The above Scripture is frequently discussed and preached from the perspective that we decide whether to pick up our cross.  I read a Bonhoeffer devotion this morning that put a new spin on it for me.  Bonhoeffer said all of humanity lives under the “death-sign of the cross”.  He implies that you either despise/ignore the cross, which leads to your destruction, or you accept the cross which leads to your salvation.  The way he explained it, it is almost as if each of us has no choice but to pick up our cross.  We can pick it up now, give up our life to Jesus and actually save our lives, or we can pick it up at the end of this life and hang on it ourselves (proverbially) at the judgement.  We are all marching toward life or marching toward death.  You can bow to Him now and be saved, or you can bow to Him in the end and be condemned.

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When you let yourself down

I am aware that I preach about repentance and turning from sin quite a bit.  I preach that so much because I believe in my heart that as much as 85% of the American church is going to hell if Jesus comes back tomorrow.  And it usually does not usually upset church people when I say that because each and every one believes they are not in the 85%.  I am not the judge who will decide on others’ eternal fate, and I certainly could be wrong.  Nearly every one could be headed to heaven.  My feelings come about by seeing others’ fruit.  I am looking at statistics that say 6% of people in the church tithe.  And tithing does not save anyone, but tithing happens as a result of being saved.  Oswald Chambers says that a life of service to God is the way we say ‘thank you’ to Him for His generous gift of salvation.  People who have not received this generous gift of salvation do not see a need to spend their lives saying ‘thanks’ to Him.  And most people do not seem to be spending their lives thanking God with their gifts, possessions, and time.

On the other hand, there are occasions in my life when I am reminded that there are saved people reading my blogs and sitting in the pews of Wesley Chapel who feel bad enough about themselves and blogs and sermons on repentance can be taken in the wrong way.  Yesterday was a day that I was not proud of the way I reacted in a couple of situations.  I can blame it on a sciatica problem, and a lack of sleep because of it.  But mostly, it is just that I am still a work in progress and sometimes the “fleshly” part of me rears its ugly head.  Yet as hard as we can be on ourselves, God never feels that way about His children.  He understands when we are doing the best we can. If you are His child, He understands and is not critical of you when you fall short.  I think He does not mind when we give ourselves constructive criticism, but I know He does not want any child of His to beat themselves up.

  • So if you are a preacher who beats him or her self up Sunday afternoon over your Sunday morning sermon (this happens more than the people in the pews would believe, this is why you never complain to your pastor about something on Sundays), take heart, God knows you are doing your best and He is OK with your effort.  Look up Child of God.
  • If you are a parent who feels inadequate, lift your head.  People who have been through it know you have one of the most difficult jobs in the world and we all did the best we could.  God knows you are doing your best and He is OK with your effort.  Look up Child of God.
  • If you are a teacher who counts the hours until the weekend, an employee who dreads going to work, a housewife who feels like you are in a rut, a single parent trying to be both mom and dad, if you are in search of a job, estranged from family, in financial distress, or any other of a myriad of situations, feelings, and problems, lift up your head.  God knows you are doing your best and He is OK with your effort.  Look up Child of God.

I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to Lauren Daigle’s “Look Up Child”:

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Don’t give up – there is hope

This morning at 6:45 my ever sky watching eyes believed it was bound to be a beautiful sunrise.  By 7:15, I had given up.  I even went out and took a picture of the gray sky.  The gray skies have a beauty of their own, yet my favorites are definitely the colorful skies.  I do not care where I am or what I am doing, I almost always find time to pause for a moment and enjoy the sunrises and sunsets.

After having given up on a pretty pink and blue sunrise, I was sitting at my office desk at 7:30 when I caught a glimpse of splendor out my window.  The sunrises are not visible from my office window, yet I could see a bit of color in the sky.  I went outside and guess what?  It turns out I was right when I first believed.  I was only wrong when I had given up.  Within 45 minutes I had gone from hopeful to disappointed to seeing the fulfillment of that earlier hope.

And such is life.  Full of ups and downs.  Within minutes we are hot, then cold, then hot while sitting in the same room.  We sometimes go too long without talking to a friend, and then when we do talk to them we wonder why we had gone so long without contacting each other.  We believe, we doubt, we wonder, we believe.  And such is life.  Keep hoping.  Do not give up.  And when you do give up hang in there until you believe again… God promises that one day you will see the fulfillment of that hope.

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~ Romans 8:24-25

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Posted in depression, Hard times | Tagged | Leave a comment

Limited time offer

I did not buy any paper for the church in 2018.  We use paper, sure.  We print bulletins every week.  But the paper we used last year was bought in 2017, lasting throughout 2018.  So I just bought paper for the church that was delivered last week and I will most certainly not be buying paper in 2020, and possibly not even in 2021.  That is because every once in a while I catch an unbelievable sale on paper.  When I find one, I buy in bulk.  I bought 10 cases last week.  At 5,000 sheets of paper per case, that is 50,000 sheets of paper.  That will last us a while.

I am reminded of the sermon from this past Sunday.  I preached from 2 Peter 3 when Peter warns that Jesus will be coming back and everything here will be be “burned up”.  He will come back to set everything right.  I spoke about how we are living under grace right now, but one day the offer of grace God provides us right now will be withdrawn.  You must “get it while you can”.  Strike while the iron is hot.  Make hay while the sun is shining.  God is so merciful right now that you can curse Him, mock Him, or ignore Him, and He lets you get away with it.  He will let you appear to be a half-committed Christian, as if there is such a thing.  But one day. BAM.  He will return and there will be hell to pay for those who have not believed and received His “limited time only” offer available through Jesus.  The Scripture says He will separate the sheep from the goats, meaning He knows who is really saved and who is faking it or not even faking it.  So you and each of us must decide now while the offer is on the table.  One day, it will be too late.  The “sale” on grace will be over.  And you will wish you had gotten it while you could.

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