Doubly Good

Twenty-six years ago I asked Robin to marry me. In most aspects it was just another normal Friday. I had worked the night before but had stayed up because I had the weekend off and wouldn’t have to be back until Sunday night. Robin was working and we had plans for lunch just like we normally did. I picked her up and we swung through the drive-through at Hardees. I don’t remember what she got but I’m pretty sure I had the Big Roast Beef (R.I.P.) and curly fries. We drove out to Battle Park and parked so that we could look out over the river. There wasn’t anything special about the location but it wasn’t too far from where she worked.

We sat and ate and I listened while she talked about her day. She wasn’t having a good day and was obviously frustrated. Even though I can remember all of this, I don’t really remember what I said or exactly how I turned the conversation. What I did do was take out the ring I had just finished paying for that morning. For someone who likes to write and record things, I am afraid that I can’t elaborate much more than that. I used to have a bunch of actual notebooks that I used as journals and there was quite a bit written in there about that day but those books were lost in one our moves several years ago (along with our wedding photos). The exact details are lost to time unless Robin can recall more than that. She may be able to so you can ask her what she remembers about that moment.

What I remember most is that at that very moment I realized I was with the woman I would spend the rest of my life with. That was twenty-six years ago and this year makes twenty-five since we got married. I can honestly say I love her more now than I did then. Truthfully, I love her more now than I ever thought was possible. It sounds dorky and I know it’s right out of the movies but she really does complete me. Sometimes it really does feel like God made her specifically for me. For that, I am eternally grateful. In the words of Rich Mullins, God was doubly good to me.

Grace and peace.

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He Is Risen

I am still fighting this cold so I haven’t been online much. We have had a wonderful weekend. Our Good Friday communion service was well attended as was our Easter Egg hunt yesterday. Today’s service was wonderful as well.

 1 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

Matthew 28:1-10 (NLT)

 

1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.

Mark 16:1-8 (NLT)

 

1 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened.11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12 (NLT)

 

1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?”Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

John 20:1-18 (NLT)

 

Grace and peace.

An Unintended Sabbatical

Wow, I looked and realized that it has been almost a week since I posted. I do apologize. Between being busy and being sick, I have not had the opportunity to post much. Having to come to the office makes it a bit more difficult but for the time being, that is how it will be.

I have been dealing with a serious cold ever since last Friday. It began in my head and was mostly sinus pressure and drainage. By Saturday evening my throat was starting to get sore. By Sunday afternoon I was feverish and the crud was starting to move to my lungs. I was pretty miserable on Monday and Tuesday. I feel a bit better today but my throat is pretty sore and I’m now coughing up all the junk that’s been bothering me. I’m taking medicine and resting as much as possible so I pray that I’ll be through all this by the weekend.

I had intended to post about the events of Passion week this week but I obviously didn’t get that done. My first thought this morning was that I could start with today and finish up but the Gospels don’t record any events on that Wednesday. Nice. The assumption is that Jesus and his disciples probably spent much of the day preparing for the Passover meal they were about to share.

The week began with the Triumphal Entry. People openly worshiped Jesus as the Messiah. Monday saw Jesus curse the fig tree, weep for Jerusalem, and drive the money changers out of the Temple. Tuesday saw Jesus teaching and pronouncing “woes” on his enemies.Tuesday is also the day Judas makes his deal with the Sanhedrin.

Wednesday is the eye of the storm. It appears calm and quiet but the real drama is about to begin. Jesus knows this. This is his last chance to catch his breath and prepare for all that is getting ready to happen. His mission is almost over and he knows it.

Lord, help me to spend these next few days remembering exactly what Jesus went through so that I could one day be with You.

Grace and peace.

Heading Out For The Day

I’ve been in the office working on songs and my sermon. I’m getting ready to go home and walk Kobi before I have to leave for Lock Haven. We’re having a Sylvan Hills Camp board meeting down there tonight at 7:00. It will be late when I get back and then I have chapel over at New Beginnings tomorrow morning at 10:00. I probably won’t get a chance to write anything until tomorrow evening. I’m going to share part of the passage we discussed last night at Bible study. You’ll see why.

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled. 51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Mark 14:43-52 (NIV)

Verse 52 adds some much needed comic relief to a very serious and disturbing scene. I have often wondered why Mark included it? Many speculate that Mark is the young man in question but we really don’t know. Some feel that he included this detail as a personal touch. Whoever he was and for whatever reason Mark included it, I’m glad it’s there. The entire scene in the garden is intense and painful to read. Jesus is wrestling with what is about to happen and his disciples (even the three closest to him) are of no help. He knows that Judas has gone off to betray him and that a mob will be there at any moment. It is a dark moment and the thought of this young man running naked from the garden at least gives us a moment to pause before beginning an even darker and more intense series of events. I don’t know about you, but I sure need it.

Grace and peace.

 

A Short One

This will be very brief but I did want to pop in for just a minute. One of the things I’m learning to do as a pastor is to sit still and listen. That doesn’t come easy for me. Much like the apostle Peter, I like to open my mouth and bless the world with my thoughts, even if I have nothing to say.

When I do that it often results in one of two things. I sometimes miss out on the things that are going on around me. In my quest to enlighten others, I blow the chance to experience something important.

The other thing is worse. In my haste to fill the silence, I end up saying something ill-advised or downright stupid. Peter did that once when Jesus was telling them that he had to go to Jerusalem and die. Peter would have nothing of it and Jesus ended up calling him Satan.

I wonder how many things I’ve missed or how many times God has shaken His head because I was in a rush to speak? I still get impatient and blabber on from time to time but I am getting better at shutting up and listening. I have been amazed by just how much I’ve learned.

Grace and peace.

Romans 12:15-18 (In Multiple Translations)

Sometimes I’ll get a passage in my head and it won’t go away. When that happens, I like to look it up in a bunch of different translations and paraphrases to see if anything new or interesting jumps out at me. This is the passage currently bouncing around upstairs.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (NASB)

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (ESV)

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)

15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (NLT)

15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (KJV)

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (NKJV)

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” (The Message)

 

I don’t use the KJV much anymore but I think that’s my favorite rendering of the end of verse 18. Live peaceably with all men. I like that. I need to do a better job of it.

Grace and peace.

So Simple, Yet So Hard

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other.33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Mark 12:28-34 (NLT)

For much of my life I had a list of things that I thought I had to do in order to make God happy. Likewise, I had another list of things that I thought I had to avoid in order to keep God from striking me down. My ability to maintain both of these lists fluctuated so greatly that I eventually gave up trying. It wasn’t because I had figured out how grace worked. I decided that there was no way I could ever please God so I just quit. I assumed that He was going to smite me and send me off to hell. As much as I wanted to love God and follow Him, it was really difficult to do when I was absolutely terrified of Him.

Fortunately, I eventually reached a point where I began to see God’s grace and mercy. Jesus showed it to people all throughout his ministry here on earth. He constantly taught that we are supposed to show it as well. For someone like me that was a revelation. I was so used to keeping lists and holding others accountable to them that grace was almost a foreign concept. When I read the account of Jesus and this teacher of the Law I am still amazed.

Jesus not only took the ten commandments, he took every law, rule, and regulation and distilled them down to two simple commands: Love God and Love Others. That sounds so simple but we all know that it is much more difficult than it sounds. Loving God means that we are willing to let go of everything we hold dear and putting Him first. That’s hard. Loving Others means that we learn to forgive and we learn how to look at others through God’s eyes instead of judgment or hatred. That may be even harder.

I really do want to do those two things and I honestly try my best. Here’s the kicker, my best isn’t always good enough. That’s why it is important to remember grace. It doesn’t do me any good to reduce my list to just two things if I still that my salvation depends on perfectly keeping those two things. I will still mess it up from time to time. That’s why I still need grace. Love God and Love Others, it does sound so simple doesn’t it? We all know that it’s much harder than it sounds. Thank God for His unfailing love and mercy. We all need it.

Grace and peace.

Do Likewise

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)

Honestly, there really isn’t much commentary I can add to Jesus’ words. We are supposed to have compassion on those in need and help them. What else is there to say? Go and do likewise.

Grace and peace.

What Will They Say?

Do you ever wonder what people will say about you after you’re gone? I do. I wonder more about what my children will think after I’m gone but I do think about the legacy (for lack of a better word) I will leave behind. Unless something totally unforeseen happens, I won’t leave large sums of money or a huge estate. Most of my earthly possessions aren’t worth a whole lot and they probably won’t hold the sentimental value to others that they do with me. I’m okay with that and I think my family understands.

However, there is one thing that I hope I am able to leave. I used the word legacy and that’s really the only one I can think of at the moment. I haven’t lived my entire life fully devoted to following Jesus and even now I still trip up from time to time. I have made many mistakes and most of them are there for all to see. I don’t have anyone fooled into thinking that I am perfect. I don’t pretend to. That doesn’t mean that I can’t leave this world with people knowing that I did try to live a life defined by grace. The older I get, the more I learn about grace. I understand that I need to be pouring out grace on others because it has been poured out on me.

That’s hard sometimes. I admit that I am inconsistent and that I sometimes let my selfishness get in the way. I often feel like the apostle Paul. I know what I’m supposed to do but I don’t do it. Likewise, I know what I shouldn’t do but do it anyway. If ever there was someone who needed grace, it is me. I am thankful for it and I try not to take it for granted. I will be forty-six years old in June. It is most likely that I have lived over half of my life. A quick glance at my family tree doesn’t make me believe that I will hit ninety. I’m okay with that. The truth is that I may not even see forty-six. My very short time on earth is ticking away much faster than I ever imagined it could. For several years that frightened me. How could I be getting old so fast? What have I accomplished?

I will be honest, I used to worry that I wasn’t going to leave a large enough footprint on this planet when I died. The problem was that I was looking at it from a totally materialistic (is that a real word?) viewpoint. I wanted to write a book or a song that everyone would be able to read or hear and remember me. I wanted to leave behind an estate that my children (and their children) could live off of. I am at a point in my life where that is just not feasible. However, I have another legacy I can leave.

The song I shared tonight has these lyrics:

Am I living everything I say?
Am I pointing others to the way?
Will I leave this world a better place?
Will Jesus say he knew me? Is Jesus living through me?

Did I maintain my authenticity?
A man of honor and integrity
Remembering me
I hope that they will truly see

He was a believer in deed
He had a heart of a different breed
He made his mark and he lived by his creed
A true believer, a believer in deed

lyrics by Bob Hartman

You know what? If that’s all anyone can say about me when I’m gone then I think I will have done well. I know that a good portion of my life didn’t live up to those words but through the grace and mercy of Jesus, I am doing everything I can now to make sure the rest of my life does. Here’s the great part, as my post last night said, I can’t do it on my on. I need Christ’s strength to carry me when I’m weak. If people can say those things about me when I’m dead, it will only be because the grace of God allowed me to live them. For that I am truly thankful.

Grace and peace.

Strong Enough

I am a blessed man. I haven’t always felt that way. There have been times in my life (some of them not too terribly long ago) when I honestly wondered why God was allowing me to go through the things I was going through. There have been many nights when I sat up alone telling God that I just could not go one more day. After all of my efforts had failed I realized that there were some things that I could not handle on my own. I let pride and fear rob me of my joy for a long time. I let guilt bury me because I tried to do things on my own and I always seemed to fail. It took a long time for me to be able to sit still and admit that I was not strong enough to fix things. That’s why I like this song so much. It’s a simple song but it helps me remember that I don’t have to fix everything. There are things in this life that are beyond my abilities. The thing I had a hard time understanding was that God sometimes uses those things to bring me closer to Him.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about a “thorn in his flesh” and writes these words:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)

Paul begged God for relief and God told him, “No.” I believe He has done the same thing in my life. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like it at the time and there were moments when I got made at Him. However, I believe He was saying the same thing to me. Paul also wrote the words that this song is based upon.

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance andneed. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10-13 (ESV)

When I trust God to take me through the hard times, He does it. That’s not easy for me but I understand it better now. Jesus taught that if we truly seek the kingdom of God before all else then God will provide our needs. His Spirit helps us do that. I am so thankful for that because I know I can’t do it on my own. I’m just not strong enough.

Grace and peace.