You can trust Him

There has been a Ford Aspire for sale along Rt. 28 for the last couple of weeks.  I joked with Diane that I wanted to buy it.  I used to own one much like the one that is for sale.  It was my favorite car.  It was a 5 speed manual transmission that got 40 miles to the gallon.  It was several years old and only $900 when I got it.  It had about 70,000 miles on it when I got it and I had it until it had about 200,000 miles and blew a cylinder.  Then I sold it to someone for $300.  I did the math once and figured out how much money it saved me in gas over the life of the car compared to a car that would have averaged 20 miles a gallon.  It was thousands of dollars.  Obviously, it would make no sense for me to buy that car sitting along the road today.  My “good gas vehicle” right now is a hand me down from Diane – a 2009 Hyundai Accent that gets just over 30 miles to the gallon.  But that old Aspire brings back the warm fuzzies for me.

It is not unlike how the enemy taunts us with old memories as a way to prevent us from  the future that God has for us as His new creation.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of church we would have at our home church in Sistersville if so many of us had not left to become pastors.  And not only did Sistersville lose the one called to pastor, but the spouses.  Did we couples who were called do the right thing?  Absolutely.  The people who have been sent out by Sistersville First United Methodist Church were/are called.  Is God doing amazing things in and through us?  I humbly say yes, He is.  But I still wonder.  The Holy Spirit worked mightily in that season.  I believe that the Holy Spirit is getting ready to do a new and mighty work in and through our home church again in this new season with their new pastor, Andrew Tennant, and his wife Julie.

I thank God for those good memories, and for that milepost on mine and Diane’s journey.  But I also am thankful that He has allowed us to move on in this walk with Him, being faithful to Diane and me and giving us the grace to trust Him more.

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make yourself matter

I am reading a book titled Come Matter Here.  The subtitle is “Being Here in a Getting There World”.  It is making me appreciate moments more.  It reminds me of the importance of getting people involved to help them understand that they really do matter.  I have read that when new people start going to a church, they are more than likely to leave if they do not get connected in some kind of ministry or small group within six months.

One of the jobs a pastor has is to try and help find places for people to serve.  I love the idea of saying to people, “Come Matter Here”, but at some point we must make ourselves matter.  I know that for some people it is very difficult to get involved.  Others have a nature that allows them to jump right in.  We are designed by God in such a way that when we serve others, it does something in us.  And it is a way we can give glory to Him, even as it does something to us.

Wesley Chapel offers dozens of ways to matter.  And you can think of things yourself.  I invite you to “Come Matter Here” but I also encourage you to make yourself matter in whatever context you are in.  Hannah Brencher, who wrote the book I mentioned, began by writing letters…. Well, I will let her explain it to you.  Click here to watch her brief 4 1/2 minute Ted Talk.

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This morning Felty Custom Graphics added the “Romans Road to salvation” to the downstairs hallway of the church.  The side white door of the church on the basement level is the main entrance for the majority of people who walk in to Wesley Chapel in any given week.  People walk in the front doors for Sunday morning church.  The rest of the week, people use the basement door for the food pantry, Wednesday dinners, NA, NarAnon, Girl Scouts, Operation Christmas Child, the weekend food backpack ministry, the TPM Recovery Resource Center, and everything else that goes on here.  The hallway used to look sanitary, much like a hospital.  Now it is bright and proclaims the way of salvation to all who enter.

As Dennis and Cathy were putting up the Scripture, They first placed the vinyl on the wall with the backing on it.  You could see through it to read the words and learn the way of salvation, but not in such a way that you would ever say it was beautiful.  They continued to work and now that it is finished, it is indeed beautiful.  It is a lot like the Christian life following Jesus.  When we are saved, we know Jesus as our Savior.  As we continue to trust Him and follow Him, and as He continues to work on us and in us, our journey is summed up this way from 1 Corinthians 13:12:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (New Living Translation)

What we have received through salvation is merely a down payment on an eternity with our Creator.  Today I know Him in part, and even when we are baffled by what He is doing, we are blessed when we can say that is enough… until that day I know Him as well as He knows me.

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A good deal

Saturday Diane and I went to the Bon-Ton store at the mall.  They are having a “going out of business sale” and Diane thought they were now at 80% off.  It turned out they were actually “up to 80% off”.  A few things were 80% off.  Most things were 60% off.  Some things were only 40% off.  I understand the job of the liquidating company is to make as much money as they can.  I worked at Sun Television and Appliance in Parkersburg, WV when the chain went out of business.  I worked at the store until the last couple of days.

We saw Simply Fit boards at Bon-Ton for $80.  We were familiar with the boards because we saw them on the TV show Shark Tank.  Bon-Ton had them at 60% off, making them $32.  We mocked the $80 starting price quietly to each other.  Then we went to Walmart and saw them marking the boards $8.  We bought one at Walmart for $8 just to try it, even though we could have saved $48 if we had bought the one at Bon-Ton.  Surely you can see how ludicrous that kind of thinking is.

I am a bargain shopper and any time I think about what I saved, I have to take into consideration the cost and the need.  I can find t-shirts on sale for $1.99, yet they can still not be a good deal because I already have 40 t-shirts.  I am not judging any of you on your purse or shoe purchases.

When I think about cost and savings and need, my mind always goes to Jesus.  We have heard “Jesus took my place on the cross” so many times that it does not affect us.  The cost for my salvation was the life of the Son of God.  It is humbling.  There was no discount to save my life.  The cost was great.  But God saw me as worth it.  He saw you as worth it.  As I live my life, I want to live it in such a way that I show Him how much I appreciate the purchase.  Yet, on the flip side, every time I disappoint myself it is important to remember His initial purchase not only saved me once, but saves me forever – saves me from condemnation; saves me from guilt; saves me from accusations from the enemy.

As you understand the need, understand the cost, and understand what was saved, praise God, He considers you a good deal.

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How much does it cost?

I have some friends in Las Vegas for a conference.  They are in direct sales with a company called Nerium International.  (They are Jolynn Sullivan, Joy Appel, and Emily (Appel) Grogg.)  My wife Diane was in direct sales with Partylite for many years and did very well.  The friends who are in Vegas right now are being pumped up to go home and sell and get their friends selling.  They can do that only if they believe in their product, and they do.  Diane believed in the quality of the candles she sold, and likely still thinks they are the best candles on the market.

My friends in Vegas are asking their Facebook friends if they would be interested in a product that decreases their stress by 70% and decreases fatigue by 79%.  One person asked how much it costs.  When I read that, I had an epiphany… a light bulb moment.  We always ask, “How much does it cost?” While that is a valid question, there is another question that is just as valid: “How much is it worth?”  How much is it worth to you to have more energy?  How much is it worth to you to feel less stressed?  Keep in mind I am not selling Nerium, but as I always do, I am about to take you deeper.

One of my favorite parables from the Bible referencing the cost and the value can be found in Matthew 13:44:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.

There was no concern about what the cost was.  The man found something so valuable that he was willing to give up everything to gain it.  If you can have the kingdom of heaven, is not the cost irrelevant?  Missionary Jim Elliot wrote in his journal in 1949: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This was five years before he lost his life (on this side of eternity) in the mission field.  What Elliot gained through following Jesus was far greater – so much so that the cost was worth it.

I do not know how well the new Nerium product works, but I have no doubt that whatever the cost of following Christ, it is worth it.

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Who you are

Last night Diane and I went to a church camp outside of Moorefield, WV.  It was youth night and young person after young person got up in front of a crowd of 150 people to sing and speak and dance about their faith.  There must have been 25-30 young people who stood with a microphone, many saying it was their first time to stand in that position.  It was beautiful the way everyone would shout encouragement to each other and cheer.  For those who stood before the 150 people and admitted to fighting depression, words were often few and far between as they intermittently broke through  silence.  When the pauses were long, cheers and shouts of encouragement erupted.

I am not a therapist.  I do not know what is happening that so many people, especially young people, suffer from depression.  I do not want to do any harm through my blog and offer any bad advice or cause guilt.  But I know this much.  The answer is not found in Facebook or illegal drugs or alcohol or wealth or fame or sex.  The answer is not found in anything this world has to offer.  If the answer were in any of these things, we would not have so many people battling depression.

I think the best I can do in this short space is to quote something I wrote in a 2012 blog post:

…helping others is the miracle cure for almost every one of our ailments! Depressed?  Go help someone, you’ll be uplifted.  Got pride?  Go volunteer at a homeless shelter or prison and you’ll be humbled and grateful.  Is your heart broken?  Go visit a children’s hospital and you’ll see and hear about faith that moves mountains that will help your broken heart be mended.

God knew what He was doing when He told us to visit the lonely, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, etc.  Not only are we gaining an eternal reward, but there is a side-effect.  (It’s not gas or bloating, and it does last longer than 4 hours.)   Serving others makes this life so much more meaningful and is exactly what “THE Doctor” ordered to relieve the ailments in our own lives.

Finally, I wish you could see yourself as God sees you and believe what He says about you.  I invite you to listen to this new Lauren Daigle song:

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Nothing can separate you from the love of God

Last week the church had the air conditioners at the parsonage and the church serviced for their yearly maintenance. The AC company found a very dirty filter in the parsonage (the parsonage is another word for the pastor’s home provided by the church).  For the past few years I have been very faithful in keeping fresh filters installed.  However, the past 8 months or so I have obviously not been so diligent.  And just so we knew what size we needed, somebody put a note on the embarrassingly dirty filter that said “parsonage filter – 20 x 25 x 1” and set it outside the door of the church.  I got a clean filter, put it in the house, and got rid of the dirty one as soon as I saw it.  It was obvious that I had wrongly neglected changing the filter.

Most of the time, our wrongs are not put out for all to see.  Most of the time, very few people know about them, and we try to keep them hidden.  It is one of the problems with trying to help people with their addiction problem.  Too many people try to keep it hidden.  What we must remember is we all have our baggage.  We all have our wrongs.  We are all sinners.  We must also remember that Jesus loved and still loves sinners.  That is good news for everyone.  1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  We are all sinners.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Some of us have no problem believing we are a sinner.  Our sin is ever before us and we are constantly condemning ourselves.  Our problem is not believing we are a sinner, but our problem is believing that Jesus could know everything about us and still love us, and even go so far as to forgive us.  Today I want to remind you that nothing can separate you from the love of God.  He loves you and wants you to pour out your hearts to Him.  He will surely forgive you, and help you forgive yourself.

On the other hand, we must never look upon another’s sin as worse than our own or judge anyone because of their sin.  We must never point out sin to condemn the sinner, but that through the acknowledgement and confession to Jesus of the sin, the sinner may be forgiven and saved… and freed.

It does not matter how well we keep our wrongs hidden or if we shout it from the rooftops.  It does not matter if nobody knows or if the whole world knows.  All that matters is that we take them to God and receive forgiveness.  And only then can we be set free.

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