Credited with a victory

I do not play many games on my phone, but one game I do play some evenings is Words with Friends.  I only play with a couple of friends – mostly with Diane.  I also play the “Lightning Round” where you are paired with 4 other random people and play against 5 others.  You play words on a few different boards that rotate among your team.  Whichever team gets to 750 points first wins and after the game, the scores for each player show up.  Last night I played and our team won.  The top three scorers totaled 750 points.  The fourth member had 12 points and the fifth player had 0.  While we won, the bottom two players did nothing to help us earn the victory.  Yet on their permanent record for the game itself, they were credited with a victory.

When I saw these scores, I took a screen shot of them because I was reminded of the reality that I also have a victory that I had no hand in.  On the cross of Calvary, Jesus took the punishment for sin for those who will receive it.  If you will confess your sin to Him, asking Him for forgiveness, the Bible says He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sin.  He who died on the cross taking the punishment for the world’s sin won the victory.  I claim that victory, even though He did all the work.  You can also claim that victory and have it go on your permanent record… and I mean permanent record, as in eternal.

So whatever failures you experience, whenever self-doubt seems to be winning, when you feel like a zero… just remember the victory that Jesus won.  And if you are on “Team Jesus”, it is your victory, too.

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Save your excuses

In the overnight hours of Sunday night/Monday morning Brenda Long and I went on an ambulance call at 2:30 a.m.  I got home a little before 4 and went back to bed.  I got up about 7:20. In the early afternoon I decided I was not going to make it to 11 p.m. without a nap.  When I was ordained in the UMC in 2013, the West Virginia Conference bishop met with us being ordained.  I remember one thing he said.  Bishop Lyght told our group that we should take a nap on the days we have a meeting in the evening.  He said pastors should never go in to a church meeting tired.  He basically said there was no shame in a nap with a pastor’s unpredictable schedule.  While I did not have a church meeting, Diane’s beloved Pittsburgh Penguins did play last night and I knew a 9:30 p.m. bed time was out of the question.

So at about 1:45 in the afternoon Diane was at the church and I was at the house and I sent her a text telling her I was taking a nap for an hour.  Except I had just been texting someone from the church and I accidentally sent the text to them.  I feel like I send a text to the wrong person at least a few times a month.  I immediately sent a message explaining my error and explaining my nap.  I then received the perfect witty “accusatory” response for today’s blog post: “That is it. I am telling the world you are slacking with mid day naps.”

Do you ever feel like you have to justify yourself for something?  I know I do.  I did in that text.  Taking time off, spending money, gaining weight, eating out… some of you are glad the UPS delivery person no longer waits at the door when they deliver a package from Amazon Prime.  You would find yourself needing to explain a delivery every other day.

When dealing with God, we are no different.  We make excuses to Him for all sorts of things.  There are excuses for our actions, for not going to church, for the words we speak, for our thoughts, for neglecting prayer and Bible reading… the list goes on.  We forget that God is not like people.  He sees right through us.  He does not desire our excuses.  He desires our honesty.  He desires a humble and honest heart that only asks for forgiveness.  Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”  So keep your excuses.  He does not need them.  Let your feelings flow.  Share your shortcomings.  Give Him your insecurities.  Come to Him as you are.  If you are His through Jesus, He will not reject you and He will not judge you.  He will embrace you… no excuses necessary.

I do have a church meeting tonight 😉

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(We can also have excuses for not believing in Him! If you are not sure you are His through Jesus, I invite you to read this and this and this)

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Do not let it go to waste

I found a water bottle from someone who was at the church a couple of weeks ago.  It was open, had a sip taken from it, and had a name on it.  It was Beth’s.  Typically, one would not have a second thought to pour it down the sink drain.  But I took that bottle and another one to my office to use to water plants.  Water is something we think nothing of pouring down the drain.  But I always try to be a good steward, or caretaker, of the resources and gifts God gives me.

I am reminded of the story of the fishes and loaves from the Bible.  Jesus fed thousands of people by miraculously “multiplying” the few pieces of fish and bread.  When “everyone was satisfied” with the food they had received, Jesus told the disciples to gather up all that remained.  Jesus was not willing to let anything go to waste.

In our own lives, Jesus is just the same.  Nothing goes to waste.  There is no pain, no heartache, no loss, no frustration that God will not use for our good and for His glory.  This is a much needed assurance in this current coronavirus season in which we find ourselves.  With the stress and uncertainty most of us are experiencing, we can be sure of this from Isaiah 55:10-11:

Just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and water the earth bringing forth buds, seeds, and food, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God is doing something and He will succeed.  He has not forsaken us, but is molding and making us.  The only possible waste would be if you and I were to miss what it is that God is desiring to teach us and do in and through us during this trying time.  Embrace the challenges, seeking Him… and do not miss what He has for you in this season.

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The King has a spot for you

On an ambulance call yesterday we pulled in to the ER to take the patient in to the hospital.  The hospital has four spots outside the ER reserved for ambulances.  I was in the back of the ambulance and when I got out I saw something I had not seen in the last three years on the ambulance.  There was an automobile parked in one of the four ambulance spots.  I wish I had taken a picture of that Toyota Tundra parked there.

I am not complaining nor would I point out publicly as I am now that someone was parked there, except that I have a way to glorify Jesus and encourage you through this illustration.  While the driver of that Toyota may have well been having or headed to an emergency, they were not entitled to that spot.  Undoubtedly, when they parked there, they knew they should not have parked there.  Translating this to a Jesus lesson, sometimes I feel like I am parked in a spot that I do not deserve in the Kingdom of God.  It is as if there is a special spot labeled “Beloved child of the King” and people see me parked there.  And I know I do not deserve to be there.  As a matter of fact, sometimes I am just waiting to be ticketed and towed.  But God…

In a way, I am right that I do not deserve it nor did I earn it.  Yet, for some reason, beyond my understanding and in spite of my unworthiness, the King of Creation offered to “pay my ticket”.  I confessed to Him my wrongs, and he gave me His righteousness.  He adopted me in to the family of God, traded His beauty for the ashes of my life, and gives me a lifetime parking pass in a spot saved for His children.  I am not a fraud.  I have been grafted into the family and I have an inheritance awaiting me.  And so can you.  If you are not His, then by all means, turn to Him and be forgiven and receive His righteousness. Most of you reading this already have that relationship with Him and, like me, you also have permission to park in spots saved for His children.  We need to claim it my brothers and sisters!  Not in a way that makes us think we are better than others, but in a way that helps us withstand the attacks of the accuser who would have us move from that spot.  You see, the devil – that accuser… he can not have us towed.  He simply accuses and tries to get us to move.  Do not fall for it.  Jesus calls you His beloved and has a place for you in the Kingdom of God.

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Growing and Changing

A few months ago I came across some tadpoles that had lost their home and they were going to die.  I scooped up as many as I could and gave them a new home to give them a chance.  I kept a few of them and put them in a bucket of water.  For the next six weeks I changed out water weekly, boiled eggs and lettuce to feed them, and cared for them until they lost their tails and received their legs.  The went from living in the water to living on a rock out of the water.  They were just a little bigger than an eraser on the end of a pencil when I released them to a place that always has a little pool of water.  Every once in a while when I walk past that place I look for them, but have yet to see them.  Of course, even if I saw them I doubt I would recognize them.  I have no idea what color they would be or how big they would be.  I am sure they are nothing like what I remember.

In a way, Christians are called to be like those tadpoles.  We are called to grow and change, and keep growing and changing.  I have changed a lot since that time 20 years ago this summer when I got saved.  I am most definitely not who I was.  I have faith now I did not have then.  I have a calling now that I did not understand then.  I believe now like I did not believe then.  And even with so far to go, I know I live a more holy life today than what I did then.

My hope, should God grant me 20 more years, is that in 2040 I will look back and say I have more faith, hope, love, belief, forgiveness, holiness, and understanding of who God is than I have today.  I hope to be so much different through the power of the Holy Spirit working within me that I would not even recognize the person I am today.  Lord, that you would help me do today what I need to do to put me on that path.

I invite you to meditate on this song from Micah Tyler: I want to be different.

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Taking the bait

We had some very small ants in the church kitchen last week.  I put out some Terro ant bait/poison.  I took this picture a mere seconds after placing the bait and it is not an exaggeration to say that within 3 minutes the bait was completely surrounded by ants.  I wish I had taken another picture.  The manufacturer obviously knows what draws the ants.  They place the poison within the thing the ants like.

That is how the devil works on us and it helps to know this.  The devil will do whatever he can to take us down.  In a sermon that I listened to this morning, Pastor David Platt said that spiritual forces of evil (led by the devil) are working right now to make you fall.  The devil wants your marriage to fall, your children to fall, and ultimately your faith to fall.  Platt said the devil would like nothing better than to have him and other pastors fall.  Spiritual forces of evil want the church to fall and often times accomplish this from within the church.  The apostle Paul is quoted in Acts 20 saying “savage wolves will rise up among you (among the church) and some of your own people will tell lies to win over the Lord’s followers.”   The devil takes things like religion, money, security, sex, marriage, food, and the list goes on, and he distorts, counterfeits, and poisons things that can otherwise be used for our good and God’s glory.  He calls evil good.  The devil knows our weaknesses, then tempts us to put those things above God and seeks to divide us.  There is no better example of calling evil good than calling the killing of unborn babies “women’s health care”.

  • God’s Word tells us “the love of money is the root of all evil”.  The devil tempts us to spend and buy things in order to place us in debt and make us slaves to money.
  • God’s Word tells us that God made man and woman for each other for sex within marriage.  The devil tells us love is love, and consensual sex between two men or two women is OK.  (here is a helpful teaching on this subject)
  • God’s Word tells us that nobody is made right with Him apart from Jesus, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  The devil would have us believe that one religion is just as valid as another, all worshipping the same god and leading to the same end.

Of course, the devil has duped a lost society and the people who proclaim truths such as these are scorned and called hateful.  Even some who agree with today’s blog will wish I had not mentioned certain topics.  It has never been an easy time to proclaim the entirety of God’s Word, and this time in the history of mankind is no different.  With the greater ability to proclaim it to the world on the internet, comes the greater ability of the spiritual forces of evil to attack those who call out the devil.  It helps to know this.

(I much prefer writing unifying blog posts and 90+% of mine are not controversial.  I know today is one that will make some people mad and may not convince anyone to see the light.  My job as a pastor is not to convince or convert, but to proclaim.  The Holy Spirit is the convincer and converter.  And I am not led to write many like today, but when I am, I must.)

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You can do it

Saturday evening Diane and I were watching an episode of the TV show “House”.  In our current culture you could be forgiven if you thought it was on the Home and garden Network.  Most of you reading know House is a medical show named after the main character, Dr. House.  On the show someone quit breathing and the hospital staff began resuscitation efforts by placing a tube down the patient’s throat to help them breath.  Knowing I recently obtained my EMT certification, Diane jokingly said, “Can you do that?”  I said, “Yes. Yes, I can.”  In a raised voice she blurted out, “YOU CAN???????”  I told her I could by placing a King Tube and ventilating someone who is not breathing.  It obviously shocked her.  I cannot believe it either.  I could not even watch those medical shows before.  God has definitely done a work in me.

When you have an interaction with Jesus, when you receive Him as your Lord and Savior, the Bible says He puts the Holy Spirit within you.  It also says you become a new creation – the old you no longer defines you.  The old you no longer constrains you.  You become free.  Free to live without fear of failure, you become able to do abundantly more than you can ask or think.  That is also the only reason I am a preacher.  Neither she nor I can make a decision on the bigger of the two miracles – preacher or EMT.  They are both God ordained and Spirit empowered.

Who you were is not who you have to be.  I pray that you (who have a relationship with Jesus) are stepping out in faith believing that the One who began a work in you will carry it on to completion… if you let Him.

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God will get you through this, too

At times I am led to one of my old blog posts and then I get to wandering through past posts.  I have written almost 1,600 posts over the last ten years.  This morning I was led to some posts from June 2016.  On June 8 I blogged about the broad path and the narrow way.  In it, I write, “Someone called my district superintendent to complain about this type of teaching.”  I also wrote if they have a problem with that, their problem is bigger than me – – they have a problem with Jesus since He is the one who said it.  The specific anonymous complaint was that I said that simply coming to church does not make you a Christian.  I told my DS that I would own that comment.  I was called in to the DS’s office to talk about three specific complaints, this one among them – a coordinated effort from three different anonymous people.  The first few years here were tough on some people in the church and tough on me.  I used to get red splotches on my chest from anxiety before church board meetings.  Looking back on that season four years ago, it was a tough time.  And for the record, I am not claiming complete guilt or innocence in that tumultuous season.  It was a season and it passed.  That’s what seasons do.  They pass.  That is one reason I always use the phrase, “It is a season.”  Sometimes that brings comfort, and other times sadness.  Sometimes I cannot wait for a season to end and sometimes I mourn a season’s passing.  Yet, I know there is always another season coming… and another and another.

The pandemic has caused 2020 to be a tough season for most people.  It has a “wandering in the dessert” feel, at least for me.  While this season is dragging on and does not appear anywhere near over, I take comfort in knowing it is but a season.  One day we will have Wednesday night dinners again.  One day we will be back serving meals at the mission.  One day we will go on mission trips again.  One day we will re-gather in the sanctuary for worship.  One day you will be able to go to the store without a mask.  One day, I will look back on this blog post from July 18, 2020 and remember this season.  And when I do, it will likely be a few seasons down the road and I will appreciate the title.  Just as God has made the challenges of my life from 2013-2016 at Wesley Chapel a testimony to His faithfulness, He will do the same for this time, I am certain.  When I look back on this season that will one day pass, I want to look back on the faith I had that God would bring me through this time of restless wandering, and this season would not be in vain.

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Seeing progress

(Today’s blog will only be understood in light of Tuesday’s, which you can read here before you begin).

I have the Roomba set to run one night early in the week and an early morning late in the week.  This morning was the early morning it runs.  I walked toward my office about 6:30 and wouldn’t you know it, there was the Roomba out in the hallway where it was not supposed to be.  On Tuesday I blogged about it getting lost in the hall and me having to carry it back to the base.  Here it is Friday right back in the hall.  And this time it could have ended up worse for the Roomba.  It could have tumbled down the steps.

Unlike the other day, the Roomba did not need to be carried today.  Today it just needed to be guided back in to the sanctuary.  I put a foot here and a foot there, leading the Roomba on the right path until it eventually moved itself back into the sanctuary.  That is progress.

Then I shut the door.

“Write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia: Thus says the Holy One, the true one, the one who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and who closes and no one opens… Revelation 3:7

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To the class of 2020 and all who are discouraged

Do you ever feel like baking cookies?  The problem with baking cookies is we tend to eat what we bake.  For me, sometimes it is more than feeling like baking cookies, but feeling like I am supposed to bake cookies.  This morning by 6:30 I had begun baking.  I do not know what I am baking them for.  What I do know from experience is that when I have cookies baked I tend to  look for things to do with them – looking for someone to bless.  Sometimes I do not even have to look because God sends someone to me seeking them.  Last week someone from NA sent me a message.  They were celebrating a “years clean” anniversary for one of their members here at the church picnic shelter and wanted to know if I had any cookies they could use.  One of them had baked a cake but were afraid it would not be enough. It turns out I did have the cookies.  They did not eat them all at the meeting, but they did not go to waste.  Everyone was happy to take some home.  This idea that “because I have them, I am seeking something special to do with them” is a great “Jesus lesson” I would like to share with you today.

I am a firm believer that nothing can come our way that God does not allow.  Does He will it all?  In other words, does he cause accidents to happen?  Did He cause the pandemic?  I do not know the answer to specific questions like that.  I do know that He has the power and authority to intervene in the world and in our lives at any time.  And sometimes He does and other times He does not. Sometimes he lets things play out, even things that are against His wishes.  I also know that no pain or undesired circumstance goes to waste. Whatever happens:

  • through consequences of our own actions or decisions
  • via bad things that happen beyond our control
  • things that God wills that we do not will

…whatever happens, God can redeem.  God has the ability to bring good out of anything, even the worst thing.  The key for us who are His is to seek out good things to do with life’s difficulties and tragedies.  I feel like my words are failing me today. Are you following me?  The obstacles and valleys in our lives are something we have with us and, like having cookies on hand, we can look for ways to use them for good, specifically His good.  God will not let them go to waste.

If I do not do something with these cookies I have on hand, they simply go to waste.  It would be a shame to let go to waste whatever waiting, whatever frustrations, whatever disappointments, and whatever loss you have suffered (or are currently suffering or will suffer) through this pandemic and other situations in your life.  Look for things to do with them to make the world a better place, to not allow yourself to have a victim mentality and be overcome by adversity, and most importantly to bring glory to God.

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