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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Posted in depression | 1 Comment

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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What do you see when you look at this window?

I was at Grace UMC in Keyser last week and they had these stained glass windows on the end of a room.  Before I taint your view, look at the picture.  What do you see?  Just a stained glass window?  Or do you see something within the window?  All I could see was a cat face.  Can you see it?  The eyes are the red areas and the mouth is below the wooden cross piece.   I cannot look at this without seeing a cat face.  At least it looks like a happy cat.  I cannot imagine the person who did the window meant for me to see a cat face, but I could be wrong.  Others who look at it will not see the face of a cat, but will simply see a stained glass window.  Everyone interprets everything from their own perspective.

I am leading you somewhere important now.  I see the word love thrown around a lot in our society and on the internet.  I see pastor friends write things like, “Our job is not to judge. Our job is to love.”  I wholeheartedly agree with that.  The Bible tells us to love God and love our neighbor.  I cannot fathom anyone who calls themselves a Christian debating that we are to love.  Where the debate comes in is how we define love. 

There is so much I could write here, but I know people will not read lengthy posts.  Going back to the window, anyone can see whatever they see and that is OK.  I can see a cat and you can see parachutes.  It is art and it is open to interpretation.  But when it comes to the Biblical command to love, the question is not, “What does love mean to you?”  The question is, “What does God mean when He says to love?”  It is not open to our interpretation.  And it does matter.  It has eternal consequences.

When we go to Haiti and hand out rice and beans, is that loving?  Most people would say it is.  But, if I have these “Words of Life”, this truth that leads to eternal life:

that there is a God who died for your sins, and if you will repent and turn from your sin and receive the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, then He will forgive you of your sins and create in you a clean heart, and He will send His Spirit to reside in you, and will eventually receive you into heaven when this life is over.

If I give them rice and beans and tell them to be well, or even tell them that God loves them and I leave it at that (not sharing those words from above), I would argue that is the most unloving thing I could ever do.  You see, because I believe the Bible teaches the above words to be true, it is love that compels me to call people to turn from their sin and be saved.  And if they will not receive that offer, I must still show them kindness, no matter how offended they are by those words and no matter how they then see me.  And that is surely what God means when He says to love our neighbor.

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Posted in Opportunity, salvation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What will replace the self checkouts?

Yesterday was a tough decision about cancelling church.  Last week we had one consolidated worship at 11.  This week, after the plowing left a wet parking lot and with the temperature plummeting throughout the day which would have left the parking lot a sheet of ice, we cancelled.  I hate cancelling church.  But did we technically cancel?  We did not gather at the church building, but at 11:00 I preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ for 22 minutes live on Facebook, really reaching way more than what we would have reached had we gathered at the church.  And people are still watching the sermon today collecting nearly 500 views.  (You may be able to watch it by clicking here.)  So, did we have church?  “Old school” folks would definitely argue we did not.  I could argue that we did.  It was just different.  We certainly missed something not gathering together in person, but gathering together online was an adequate alternative. It may even lead me to start broadcasting the sermons on FB Live weekly.

Seeing things change brings me to the self checkouts at Walmart.  Our local Walmart will be down to about 6 checkout lanes, and will likely have a couple of dozen self-checkouts.  It was chaos while they were installing them.  I assume they are done.  I have not been there in the last couple of weeks.  People are sharing a meme that goes something like this: “If I wanted to check myself out and bag my own groceries, I would get a job at Walmart”.  I predict there will come a day when self checkouts are replaced.  I believe one day, you will bag your groceries & items as you go.  When you get to the front of the store you will wheel your cart right out to your car.  A scanner will pick up on everything you bought and pick up your credit card (or do an eye scan) and it will all be deducted from your account or charged to your “credit card”.  It will be impossible to shoplift (even as I say this I know criminals find ways).  People may even send their self driving vehicles to the store to be loaded and sent back to them.  Or going to a store may become a thing of the past entirely, with everything being sent to your home quicker than you could go to the store.

It does no good to long for the way things used to be.  Things are constantly changing.  I understand change.  Yet when it comes to the Word of God, change is not an option.  The world is trying to draw the church in and wants the church to change.  The world wants the church to approve of the ways of the world.  Some in the church are going right along, disregarding what the Bible teaches about the hot topics of our culture.  Some claim it is loving to embrace the ways of the world, and allow everyone to make up their own “truth”.  In addition, some go as far as to argue it is unloving not to affirm the ways of the world.  I disagree.  The Bible teaches “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).   Methods have changed and will change in the church, but the Word remains the same.  We must not decide what we desire and then try to use Scripture to justify it.  We must look at the Word of God and proclaim it, regardless of how it is accepted.

We shall not seek to understand in order that we may believe, but to believe that we may understand. ~ A.W. Tozer

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The Lord hears you

This morning I woke up early and laid for over an hour thinking about getting pork bbq and turkey gravy started heating and banana wafer pudding made for the mission for lunch today.  So I got up, snuck out of the house, and went to the church kitchen.  As I was working and praying (Ora Et Labora), I felt like I should put, “Lord, hear my prayer” on Facebook.  I got on Facebook and typed it.  But before I posted it, the Spirit within me reminded me that I do not have to ask for God to hear my prayer.  I know hears my prayer.

Why would I write “Lord, hear my prayer” on Facebook?  What I was led to post instead was “The Lord hears your prayer” to remind others that God hears their prayers.  If I am being honest, sometimes I feel like a prophet of Baal (Elijah mocked them because their god did not hear them 1 Kings 18:20-38).  But I know that is a lie of the enemy.  God hears me.  And believing He hears me is more important than having my prayers answered in the affirmative.  I can handle a God who hears my petitions and in His greater wisdom knows they are not best.  What I could not handle is if they were not even considered.

Take heart and be of good cheer.  The God of Creation hears the prayers of His people.

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