The bad guys think the good guys are the bad guys

I read a headline that a British ship escorted a Russian ship in international waters near British waters over Christmas.  The relationship between Great Britain and Russia is tense right now.  A recent article from the BBC says that Moscow blames London for the poor state of relations between the countries.   Of course, London blames Moscow.  It is not very often that the bad guys see themselves as the bad guys.

I am reminded that in Christianity, the Bible teaches that without Jesus, we are all the “bad guys”.  And with Jesus, the only thing that puts us on the good guys team is Jesus.  The mistake we often make as followers of Jesus is when we start to think we are the good guys because of our own righteousness.  This was the mistake the Pharisees made.  Their own righteousness impressed them.  And everyone else was the bad guys.  Well, their own righteousness did not impress Jesus.

Matthew 23:12-13: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.”

When we are humble enough to remember that it is Jesus who makes us acceptable to God, it makes it easier to remember that those without Jesus are not the bad guys.  They are just people who need Jesus.

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Steelers receive a $4 Bonus

I read that each of the Pittsburgh Steelers players received a bonus from the Steelers’ owner for winning their division.  It was a $200 bonus.  To put it in perspective, I did the math and figured out what the bonus would be for me based on my salary.  The average NFL salary is about $2 million a year.  My gross salary is about $44,000 a year.  That bonus for the Steelers’ players would equate to about a $4 bonus for me.  The bonus for the players will obviously buy a lot more than mine would.  I could not even get a Little Ceasar’s pizza.  Still, it would seem to be an insignificant gift.  It is one where you would have to be satisfied with the “It’s the thought that counts” mantra.

Today is Christmas in 2017.  It has been just over 2,000 years since the world received the greatest gift when God entered the world He created.  And the sad thing is that most of America values it as much as I would treasure a $4 bonus.  If I truly understood the value of the gift I have received from God, I would be sobbing right now.  He really does love me so much that He went as far as to sacrifice Himself for me.

Immanuel… God with us.  Immanuel… God with me.  It occurred to me last night during the Christmas Eve worship that one day I will be with Him forever.  Until then, He has come to be with me.  It truly is a priceless gift.  My prayer for you on this Christmas Day is that you would just thank Him for the gift.

Heavenly Father,  There is nothing comparable to You.  You are the beginning and the end.  You are perfect and holy.  It is only by Your grace that I have my next breath.  I could easily be insignificant to You.  But I am not.  I know You love me.  And if I ever doubt that, help me to remember the gift You gave me.  Help me to remember that You came from heaven to earth to help me get from earth to heaven.  And even more, help me to realize that Your Spirit is with me right now, and always.  Thank You for sending Jesus.  Help me to live for Him.  Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit.  Help me to be attuned to Him.  In the blessed Name of Jesus I praise You. Amen.

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Should you keep going?

One of the most difficult things in the church is letting go.  I would venture to say that every church out there has a ministry that needs to end.  The church likes to keep things going just because they have always done it that way.  And I am not making an announcement about anything at our church.  This thought just comes to mind because for the past month or so I have been thinking of ending my blogging.

I began blogging 7 1/2 years ago.  It started slowly.  And I was sporadic.  Then one young woman told me that while her husband would not go to church, he did read my blog.  She thanked me for writing it.  So on the days I had 4 people reading it, I knew who two of them were – this girl’s unchurched husband and my wife, Diane.  And I kept writing.  And I added written sermons.  And God has blessed my perseverance (steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.)  In the last couple of weeks, my posts surpassed the 300,000 views mark.  That’s pretty unbelievable for a blog that in the first month had 46 views.

I told Diane early this week I thought I might be done blogging.  It is not uncommon for me to spend an hour on one post.  And sometimes I trample all over my sermon, or the blog turns into a sermon and then I hate to post and then have people have to hear it after they have read it.  Of course, she encouraged me as a loving spouse would do.

But then Wednesday, one of the people at the NA meeting mentioned that two of them had been discussing one of my recent posts.  I took that as the Lord reminding me that he is using me.  I am doing His work.  This is His work.  And I am not looking for encouragement nor accolades from you who read it.  I do not need it.  I just want to be faithful to what God wants me to do, just as I was in the beginning.

I am writing this for you who read it.  I am writing this today to encourage you.  If there is something that God wants you to end, then by all means end it.  However, if He is using you to do His work, do not be discouraged if you are not seeing fruit.  Do not be discouraged if He is just asking you to go by faith.  Do not compare yourself you others.  Hang in there and do the Lord’s work.

Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.~ Galatians 9:9

Here is something I wrote in September of 2014:

If God calls you to do something, don’t give up. He’s trusting you. Here’s what I’ve learned. If you teach a Sunday School class or lead a youth group with 2 kids, He’s trusting you with those 2 kids. If you pastor a church with 25 people, do your best, prepare your sermon as if 1,000 people were going to hear it, and preach the Gospel with all you’ve got. If you lead a small group and you get discouraged because only a few show up, keep going if you believe God is calling you to do it. We mustn’t ever have the attitude that only a few will be there so I’m not going to prepare or follow through. Will you continue to serve Him even when it seems like nobody notices? Will you be obedient even when you don’t feel like it? Can God trust you with a little?

 

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Posted in Hard times, sermons, Walking the Walk | 2 Comments

Nothing is wasted

Last night was a great night.  I can’t give details about the TPM Recovery Resource Center or the NA Meetings housed at the church, but just take my word for it, last night was a great night and this has been a great week.

Another thing that made it a great night is someone shared with me what they have discovered about God.  The person told me that they spent their whole life memorizing Scripture and proclaiming Scripture to others, yet in the past year they realized something had been missing.  They said sometimes a person can need more than Scripture cited to them.  They said they had been missing compassion, and they learned that here at Wesley Chapel.  I consider that the ultimate act of and glory to God.

I always say that God’s Word must be spoken in love.  I believe that God’s Word, when not spoken in love, is heard as a lie.  (If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1)  For example, when we are in Haiti and tell someone that God will meet their needs, and because I have the resources to show them God’s provision, if I do not, I am a clanging cymbal.  James 2:16 says, “If you say to someone, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”  The love of Jesus compels us to love our neighbors, and it requires more than words.  It is the problem with hell fire and damnation sermons.  I am not saying a hell fire and damnation sermon cannot be spoken out of an attitude of love – I believe it can.  But they rarely are.  And when we just spout Scripture to people without love and compassion, it is not how God intended it.

The person told me that they had wasted all those years not having compassion.  I told them that nothing is wasted with God.  What would have been a waste is if they had never found the compassion.

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It’s not my stuff I’m giving away

The strangest thing happened the other day. Someone sent me a message that they had some toys and clothes donated.  They said if I knew anyone who needed some to let them know.  10 minutes later, Lauren from the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company called me said she had been contacted by someone who needed help with food and toys for Christmas.  I told her that it just so happened that someone just told me they had some stuff.  (I’d like to give the place credit for the stuff, but I also don’t want them to be overwhelmed.)

Diane and I are getting ready to deliver a van load to the people.  As I was going through the food pantry getting Axe Body Wash for the teenage boy and food for the family, the thought went through my mind that because these people are so far away that maybe they’ve just used and abused all the help near them to the point that they are now being told no by churches near them.  I am just being honest about thinking thoughts like this at times.  We would typically tell people from out of the area no.  But here we are, ready to send them a van full of food, clothes, and toys.

And as cynical thoughts like that are going through my mind, something else went through my mind.  It was something someone once asked someone back in upper Mason County at the food pantry.

  • “Does the stuff belong to you?”
  • “No.”
  • “Who does it belong to?”
  • “God.”
  • “Then let God deal with them.”

We are doing what Jesus calls us to do.  And unless I am pretty sure that He would not have us help someone, I think we had better do it.  It is not my stuff I am giving away.

Heavenly Father, Help me to be a good caretaker of those things You have given me control – the things that are donated to the church, and my own personal possessions.  Amen.

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The rest of the story

When I saw this picture of Olaf, a character from the movie Frozen, I was struck by what a freaky looking character this is.  If I knew nothing of the movie, I would think this snowman was intended to scare kids. Obviously Olaf is not scary once you get to know him through the movie because it changes the way you see him.

Thinking about “knowing” Olaf brings to my mind a quote from missionary Jim Elliot who wrote in his journal, “It is the heart that is not yet sure of its God that is afraid to laugh in His presence”.  Once you “know” God as He has revealed Himself through His Word and through Jesus, God goes from being this scary, unpredictable being to calling us His children and allowing us to call Him Father.  He sends the Holy Spirit to help you grow closer to Him and to help you be obedient to His will.  Once you know Him, it changes the way you see Him…. until you finally see Him face to face.  And through faith in Christ, we need not fear that day.

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The “After the holidays” Excuse

Lately the “after the holidays” idea has been creeping into my mind.  I feel like I have been using the holiday excuse to overeat.  I almost feel like I am trying to bulk up to go on the television show Survivor.  And society is not helping.  I just got an email from one company inviting me to “Take your snacking to a whole new level.”  They do not know that I already have.  I do not want to use the holiday excuse as permission to overeat, but with winter clothes able to hide 10 extra pounds, it is easy to indulge.  Eventually the winter clothes and the winter weight will need to come off.  With that in mind, to keep packing on the pounds makes no sense.  (Some of you may use the “after the holidays” excuse to overspend, telling yourself you will worry about it in January when the credit card bills come in).  If you can’t say amen, at least say ouch.

In Romans chapter 5 and 6, Paul is proclaiming Jesus’ victory over sin.  While “The Law” (think Old Testament commandments God’s people were supposed to follow) points out our sin due to our inability to follow it, it does nothing to provide a cure.  Paul is telling us that Jesus is the cure.  He says in Romans 5:20, where sin existed in large quantity, grace existed all the more.  Whatever the sin, however much sin, Jesus’ grace and forgiveness covers it.  Yet there is this warning in Romans 6:1-2.  Just because we are forgiven does not mean we have permission to keep doing wrong.  When we know better, we should do better.  I know better.

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