The one behind it

I have this thing about taking shopping carts back in to the store.  I do not mean my shopping cart.  The truth is I typically put my shopping cart in the cart corral.  But as I walk in the store, or if I am waiting for my wife to shop or finish shopping, I spend my time taking carts back in to the store.  I can pile up 10 carts and guide them through the parking lot nearly as good as anyone who gets paid for it.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have taken thousands of carts back in.  I often think, “Glory to You, God” as I wheel them in.  Sometimes people ask me questions as if I work at the store, until I advise them I do not.

Yesterday we were at a local grocery store and there were none of the small carts inside.  While Diane was finishing up inside I was taking carts in.  I put a row of about 7 of them inside and was returning with more when a woman in front of me got one of the small carts I had just taken in.  She had no clue that 5 minutes earlier she would have either been searching for a small cart or wheeling one of the big carts through the store.  She was oblivious to the fact that I put those carts there for customers.

It made me think of how we take God’s provisions for granted.  How often do you thank Him when you turn the key of your car and it starts?  He has blessed us in so many ways and most of the time we do not thank Him nor acknowledge where our blessings came from.  Many things, like a car starting, we do not even think of as blessings.  People who do not believe in God even receive His gracious blessings!  He is so wonderful!

When we continuously thank Him throughout the day for things like shopping carts, snow shovels, glasses, and phones, it creates a life of thankfulness.  And thankfulness changes us for the better.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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A more opportune time

This morning as I walked toward my car there was a robin near it.  The robin flew away when I got close and I saw a worm the robin was playing with.  When I left the robin went back to the worm.  I thought about moving the worm from the asphalt to the grass, but the robin was watching me.  I could have brought the worm into the church going out another door to put the worm in grass somewhere else in order to save the worm, but now I sound ridiculous.

The bird left until a more opportune time.  That is that the Bible says about the devil after he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:13), that he left Jesus until another opportune time.  I heard someone say one time that if you could say anything good about the devil it is this:  He is not lazy.  He is a liar and thief.  He is a fraud and a poacher.  “1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I always say that God is always at work.  So is His enemy.  Today’s blog is just a reminder to get your rest, read your Bible, say your prayers, go to church.  James 4:7 tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  But like that robin with his eye on the worm, he is never far away.

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Defending the guilty

I assume you all have heard about one of the latest acts of evil raising its ugly head in the shooting at the Florida school.  I saw this picture of the lawyer with the accused gunman.  The lawyer’s job is to defend the accused and be his advocate, even though this seems to be a pretty open and shut case.  The defendant will undoubtedly be found guilty and will serve life in prison with no chance for parole.

I had the eeriest thought when I saw that picture.  I saw a vision of myself in the picture, but instead of standing before an earthly judge, I was standing before the God of Creation.  I would plead my innocence, but I would certainly be found guilty.

This young man will receive no grace.  It was a horrible thing he did.  He will now pay a debt to society for the rest of his life, but he will never be able to pay enough to make up for what he has done.  He has destroyed countless families and taken innocent lives.

On the other hand, I do not have to be convicted when I stand before the God of Eternity.  He is willing to find me “not guilty” of my wrongs, because the penalty has already been paid by my Advocate, Jesus Christ.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Ephesians 2:8

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Follow and Become

Mark 1:17 caught my attention this morning.  Jesus is calling the first disciples and He says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  I guess it struck me because of some texting I had been doing with someone who wondered if their church was ready for “the least of these” to attend.  And in the phrase “least of these”, that’s my polite way of saying homeless, recovering addicts, welfare abusers, etc.

We have this mistaken idea that people should get their lives cleaned up and then come to Jesus.  Jesus came precisely because none of us can get our lives cleaned up without Him — at least not cleaned up enough to make us right with God.  So when we question whether our churches are ready to accept prostitutes and tax collectors, the question we are asking is, “Are we the church?”  Because if we are the church of Jesus Christ, we are always ready to welcome lost sinners, of whom we all were before Jesus made us clean.  If we allow them (and show them how) to follow, who knows what God may help them become.

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The significance of one mistake

This morning I received a great illustration that led to today’s blog.  I was using the commercial mixer in the church to mix up a batch of coconut eggs.  The powdered sugar has a tendency to fly everywhere.  I had successfully mixed 95% of the powdered sugar in to the creamy coconut mixture with no mess.  It was the last couple of cups of sugar that got me.  I put the remaining sugar in and hit the mix button and those last two cups of sugar came back out of the mixer as quick as they went in. It was nearly enough to make a preacher cuss.  I did everything perfect except for one time.  It was a very small mistake.  But the sticky mess from having to clean it up did not make the mistake seem so small.

In our society, one of the biggest obstacles to accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord is the “good person” mentality.  Most of us think we are a pretty good person.  When we think we are pretty good, it may be hard to believe we need a Savior to cover our sins.  Have I done a few things wrong?  Sure.  But my few wrongs do not rise to the level of needing Jesus to die on the cross for them.  They are trivial.  A few good deeds should cancel them out.  And the truth is, any “mistake” like taking something that is not yours, talking poorly about a neighbor or co-worker, etc is called a sin.  It is an offense against God and even a little offense against God is punishable by death.  The majority of our sin is small.  Most of us will never commit a great sin.  So the truth is, most of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers what we perceive as small sins.  But no matter the size of the sin, God only sees sin.  You can be 99% good and that is not good enough.  There is still a mess that needs cleaned up — a penalty to be paid; and it requires the life of the Son of God.

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God honoring the Philadelphia Eagles?

I do not claim to have any extraordinary insight nor did I place any wagers on the Super Bowl.  Yet, at our 11:00 worship yesterday I said it would not surprise me if the Eagles won last night.  And I may have even said I thought the Eagles would win just so God could receive the glory.  I knew both of their quarterbacks were Jesus followers.  Nick Foles, the backup turned starting QB feels the call to be a pastor when he finishes football and is currently taking online classes at Liberty university.  I played a 6 minute video of injured starting QB Carson Wentz in church yesterday talking about salvation by grace through faith, not of works.  I knew they had team Bible studies, and my wife Diane told me their star receiver had recently turned it all over to Jesus and it has turned his life around.  On top of that, their coach Doug Pederson said upon receiving congratulations last night that he wanted to give glory to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I do not think God orchestrates the results of football games, but I cannot help but think there may have been Divine intervention when Tom Brady uncharacteristically fumbled that ball last night at a time he would have typically moved the team down field for the winning touchdown.

But a different thought came to me this morning.  While I may be completely wrong, I think it may have been about more than giving God glory.  Those followers on the Eagles’ team would have graciously accepted defeat and given Jesus the glory in a loss.  I think it may have well been God honoring His Philadelphia Eagles.  I do not mean the Eagles’ are God’s favorite team.  I mean God has a lot of bold witnesses on that team.  And in 1 Samuel 2:30, God says, “…those that honor me I will honor…”  When God gives His people victories, He also gives them affirmation.  I have received many affirmations through movements of God.  There is no doubt that many of the Eagles’ have to feel like their close walk with God this past season has been rewarded.  I understand there are many Jesus followers on the Patriots’ team as well as on every NFL team, but it just seems like last night God gave His grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)  And He gave the humble the victory. (1 Corinthians 15:57)  To God be the glory.

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The things we do for less important things

There is a sketchy weather forecast for our area around noon today.  There may be some ice.  We do not know for sure.  Ice is so hard to figure because a couple of degrees difference one way or another means snow or rain.  I certainly do not want anyone to take unnecessary risks this morning.

It is a reminder to me, though, of how we do things or not do things based on how important they are to us.  If there is a phone call you are not wanting to make and it is 9:30, you may well say, “It is going on 10:00, I do not want to call this late.”  On the other hand, if you do want to make the call, you might just say, “It is just after 9, that is not too late.”

Some of us have sat in a cold rainy football stadium to watch a football team play, or fought crowds and stood in line for bargains at the store, or go out and spend way too much money on mediocre food when we know could make a better meal at home for a lot less money.

I always wonder how God sees my priorities.  And this is not a blog to guilt you in to coming to church today.  But in your life, look at where you spend your money, how you spend your time, and what you are willing to sacrifice for.  That will tell you much about your relationship with Jesus.  Do I spend more time reading the Bible or on social media?  In prayer or keeping up with the news?  If you can’t say amen, at least say ouch.  Ouch.

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