“That tears it!”

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“That tears it!” I am certain most if not all of us have used this expression at a frustration in life. For me, I find myself uttering this toward the end of a game I am watching when a score by the other team effectively removes any chance of my group winning. By and large, ‘that tears it’ is most commonly spoken during a straw that broke the camel’s back occurrence. And rarely, if ever, have I heard this idiom used as an exclamation of something good happening.

But as sometimes happens within the quirky workings of my mind, I read something that caused me to put a different spin on a saying like we are considering. Today this has happened twice as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark. What I discovered in these two places is the most positive take on something being torn I have ever encountered.

Actually, ‘that tears it’ in the context of what I am about to share is the exact opposite of a negative connotation, for the following Scriptures reveal that God has taken away any barriers to Him. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the invitation to absolutely anyone who would put their faith in His saving power.

Sin, as I have stated here on numerous occasions, is that which causes separation between us and God. The imperfect (that’s us) cannot exist in the same place as the Perfect (that is, God). Blessedly, the actual playing out of God’s heavenly hope for poor sinners can be seen beginning at the baptism of Jesus.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 NIV)

The image of what Jesus saw is beautiful in that it reveals that heaven, the eternal home for the faithful, has been opened. And Mark chose to describe this as heaven being torn open. This is not some neat cut along a dotted line, but rather a ripping open. This tells me that heaven was opened to stay that way. It was not left in such a way as to be neatly stitched back up. Picture that! When God ‘tears it,’ it will not be closed again.

As the events happening around the baptism of Jesus give us the joyful glimpse of a heavenly home being opened to us, it is at His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection that the actual invitation to life eternal in paradise is offered.

In Chapter 15 of Marks’ gospel we find his account of the gruesome crucifixion of the Lord. At the very moment of the physical death of Jesus, God once again ‘tears it.’

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37-39 NIV)

The meaning of that curtain being torn in two is far too important to miss. In the days of temple worship, this curtain stood as a physical barrier between what was called the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only a priest, and he only once a year, could go behind that curtain to perform a ceremony of forgiveness in the Most Holy Place.

The death of Jesus Christ tore that barrier out of the way forever! His resurrection three days later stands as the living proof of God’s awesome love for us all. Jesus had taken our place on the cross. He bore the price of our sin so that those who place their faith in Him could be forgiven. The physical barrier, represented here as the curtain to the Most Holy Place, is torn away, never to be replaced.

So if God were to say, “that tears it,” He would be describing the end of our separation from Him. His perfect love paved and continues to pave the way to Him. Won’t you let allow Him to tear away anything you may have or hold to that causes separation?

If you do, you will experience the ultimate joy of having God tear it from you. Once gone, whatever it is, His loving kindness will begin to envelop you, and nothing can tear that away!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

For Such a Time as This

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“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b NIV)

The above quote may well be the best known verse from the Book of Esther. It truly is a compelling story. Found within its 10 chapters are intrigue, irony and selfless bravery. Any of these topics would be more than enough material for an aspiring blogger, but today I just want to focus on that one verse I started with.

If you are not familiar with this short book (you can find it between Nehemiah and Job in the Old Testament), and not wanting to be a spoiler, suffice to say for my purpose today that Esther, through a series of events, has been placed by God in a position to be of great help to her native people.

It is in correspondence with her cousin, Mordecai, that we come across this pearl of wisdom that we are contemplating. Mordecai is doing his best to encourage Esther to use her standing as Queen to influence that King to spare the Jews. Hence, her cousin phrases his request in such a way as to help Esther see the possibility of coming to their aid.

None of us, I feel safe in saying, find ourselves in a royal position this day, as Esther did. That should not, however, prevent us from evaluating the circumstances that we do find ourselves in, looking with an eye and heart to be of service to someone else.

I mean, these days in which we find ourselves are indeed ‘such a time as this.’ To say they are unique does not adequately describe the challenge of global pandemic. Yet in the spirit of Mordecai’s encouragement to Esther, what is to say that you and I are not in our particular circumstance so that we can be a help to another.

And unlike Queen Esther, you and I do not have the weighty problem that faced her: the extermination of her race. This should take some of the pressure off us, but not the responsibility, to our fellow humans.

The question this begs then is this: What can I do ‘for such a time as this’ to carry the desire to be of service to others into action? I will list 3 off the top of my head, and would surely love to see your additions to the list. In no particular order, here we go:

Get the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you. As I’ve stated before, one person getting vaccinated is not that big a deal, unless you get sick or cause some else to. But if we come together as caring people, placing the welfare of others at least on a par with our own, we can win this battle if we get the shot(s).

If, like many of us, you find a little extra time in your day these days, be intentional about setting a side part of this bonus time to spend for someone else. May I suggest you take a moment to pray for somebody you know that is struggling, or perhaps take a moment to call/text/email simply to let them know you are thinking of them.

Last one from me, for now anyway: Expand you frame of reference. For example, where I live is quite rural. There is little to no cultural differences for miles around. Because of this, I know virtually no one who is Muslim and even less of their faith. Since the pandemic, with its lockdowns and shutdowns, I have taken the time to read and research their faith. I do this so that if/when the time comes when God puts a Muslim in my life, I can speak intelligently and with some understanding of their beliefs in hopes of building a bridge to the one true faith in Christ.

Your turn, Most Appreciated Reader, where is God leading you ‘for such a time as this?’

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Two Weeks Later

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I write this two weeks after getting the first of two Moderna vaccinations against Covid 19 and am glad to report that none of my God-given appendages have fallen off nor have I sprouted a third eye (or anything else, for that matter).

Let me be clear at the outset, I am aware and understand that some people have heath issues that make getting vaccinated a risk to them. As always, I encourage folks to follow closely the instruction and direction of their medical care providers.

I write this today to those who may have a more general misgiving about this particular vaccination. As I stated in an earlier blog, I did some research and more importantly spent some time praying about this. My prayer was specific in that I asked God to reveal to me any reason I should hesitate to receive the shot. I have been blessed to be a person of prayer for some time now and have come to have a deep trust in the God I pray to. So when nothing negative was revealed to me, I gladly rolled up my sleeve.

Trusting in God was not only key in my decision to get vaccinated, but it is also my default setting whenever there are decisions to be made in my life. “That’s great for you, your a pastor guy,” you might be thinking. Believe me, my calling has no special bearing in getting heard from above. Really, the trust is built as it is in any relationship: Getting to know the other person in a deeper way.

I know of only one way in which to do this; that is to take the time needed to nurture it. With other people, it usually involves asking questions, listening to the responses and watching to see if what is said matches up with how they live their life. If I see inconsistencies, I will withhold the appropriate amount of trust.

But if their sincerity is matched with integrity, the door is wide open to walk through. I have applied this same approach with my relationship with God. I have found that He is who He says He is and His working in my life and the lives of countless others has backed up what He has promised.

I started writing this earlier in the day solely to encourage you to be thoughtful about getting vaccinated against Covid 19 when it becomes available to you. I firmly believe it is the next right thing to do, not only for yourself, but also those with whom you share life.

But as I wrote, I seem to have moved into another recommendation: to seek out the God of heaven. And not just to seek His guidance about getting the shot, but also to encourage you to step out in faith and develop your end of the relationship He offers you. He is there and patiently waiting, even if I should develop something untoward like an eyestalk.

Be blessed and be a blessing (get the shot!)

Pastor Chuck

C’mon Guys, man up!

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Please note that the following is based solely on my personal experience. There is no scientific research involved.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I received the first vaccination against the Covid 19 virus on December 29th. Like I said then, this was not a decision I made lightly. I spent some time in prayer, seeking God’s leading and I did a fair amount of research into the safety of these shots. I came away convinced beyond any doubt that not only were the vaccinations safe, but also that by taking the shot I was living out God’s command to love others as I protect myself and them from spreading this illness.

Actually I was at the hospital where the vaccine is being dispensed twice last week. On Tuesday for my shot, and on Wednesday as I brought one of the residents from the halfway house where I work to get his.

They seem to have a good system going at the local hospital as I was there only about 25 minutes each time. It was during these two visits that gave me the inspiration to write today.

Over those two days I saw approximately 50 people who were either in the fast moving line to register or in the conference room where we waited our 15 minutes to make sure no one had any adverse reactions once inoculated (no one did when I was there).

It was the wide discrepancy in the ratio of women to men that really caught my attention. Counting myself, I saw only 3 males getting vaccinated over those two days I was there. I realize that a large percentage of health care workers are female, but if my total count was accurate, only 6% of those I saw get inoculated were men. Where were they all?

Hence the title, C’mon guys, man up! Roll up your sleeves and get it done. Whatever excuses you may have for not doing this, I am asking that you think again. I had zero side-effects, not even a sore arm. Nor have I sprouted a third eye or have any of my God-given appendages fallen off.

And seriously, during these times when so many have felt so helpless and vulnerable, I believe this is an extremely practical way to show care for your fellow humans. I spoke to a nurse I know earlier and told her I got the shot in part so that I would be one less person she would have to care for. Tears filled her eyes as she thanked me. So c’mon guys, lets do this. If not for yourself, do it for your family, friends and those frontline workers who have given so much of themselves over the previous 10 months combatting this pandemic.

There needs to be a lot of folks getting the Covid shot if we are going to put this issue to bed. I am encouraging everyone who has doubts to do as I did: pray and do research and then ultimately look past just yourself to the larger community around you.

Thank you. Be blessed. And be a blessing by getting vaccinated when it becomes available to you.

Pastor Chuck

Happy New Day!

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Allow me to add my voice (blog) to the many who have extended blessings to you as we venture into the year 2021. I pray for all of you, Most Appreciated Readers, that God blesses you with His peace as He draws you into deeper relationship with Him in the coming days, weeks and months.

As I have written over the span of 2020, my heart goes out to all who experienced loss during the Covid-19 pandemic. Be those losses personal, financial or relational, I do indeed hope that the new year brings some measure of relief to you.

But it is to those who thought that somehow by turning the page of the calendar things were going to suddenly improve that I write to today. Much the same as someone trying the ‘geographic cure’ we talk about in the 12 Step programs, little relief is truly found just because it becomes January of a new year.

One of the things that is stressed in those recovery rooms is the importance of staying in today. To do this, one must not allow the burdens of the past to become backbreaking. Likewise, the expectations of the future, both good and bad, must be kept in perspective as well. Think of it like this: The past is a cancelled check, and the future is a promissory note that never comes to maturity because it is always Today.

Simply put, we learn from the past without dwelling on its mistakes and we plan for the future, without casting our anticipated results in stone.

There is a passage in Psalm 119 I would like to share with you that continues to be godly counsel to me as I attempt to live out these things I have mentioned above.

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 119:22-24 NIV)

These verses tell me several things that are of great encouragement. The rejected stone is a prophecy of Jesus. The Lord fulfills this as He becomes the capstone (or final) building block of Father God’s salvation plan for all of humanity. Meditating on the wonder that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection stirs all types of thoughts and emotions in me. I will boil them down to this: Complete awe that God would do this for undeserving sinners like me, and unspeakable joy that He has made life eternal possible because of His taking my place on that cross.

With my heart and head again re-directed toward God’s love and care for me, I can endeavor to carry out what verse 24 says as I realize that this day (which references both the day of salvation and this very day in which we live), has been created by God Himself. With this understanding then comes the attempt to be obedient to rejoice and be glad in it.

A quick check of the original Hebrew is helpful. The word translated rejoice carries with it the meaning of having a joyful attitude and being excited about the prospect  of the day. To be glad is to take delight in; not just in what may come, but in the very existence of this day.

It occurs to me that each of us as individuals will have to determine how we rejoice and are glad. I believe the common denominator though will be our own willingness to do so.

This will require more than a glass half full/empty mentality. I/we have to make the determination to rejoice and be glad in this day, simply because it was created for us. If we can do this, the circumstances of any particular day will have less power to sway our feelings and reactions. Basically, as in all things of faith, we must anchor ourselves to the Lord in complete trust. The more we are able to this (with His help, btw), the better our focus remains on Him, who is the true reason for our rejoicing and gladness.

So rejoice and be glad in the immeasurable and awesome love of God this day. He desires only good for us. Make this (and every) day the happy day is has been created for. Will it be all sunshine, unicorns and rainbows? My experience tells me no. But that same experience is teaching me that the true reason for rejoicing and gladness never changes, and I find great comfort in that as things swirl crazily around in the world.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Forgiven and forgotten: A lesson learned from a 20 yard dumpster

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Last week my wife Betsy and I rented a 20 yard roll off dumpster. Though we are no hoarders by any stretch of the imagination, two decades of living in the same, relatively small house does manage to collect and store lots of stuff. Most of it was deemed essential at one point (or thought it would be in the future), hence the slow increase of clutter in our garage and the storage space above it.

Betsy took some time off from her job so that we could work together on this project. On Wednesday, the empty container was left in our driveway.

That first afternoon we moved the heavy and cumbersome things from the garage into the container. We got a later start that planned on Thursday and by that days end we had completed just the downstairs area, leaving the more difficult upstairs work for Friday.

Friday morning we cheerfully and carefully started getting things down the ladder and out to the dumpster and several short hours later, the job was done!

As encouraging as I hope this is to you if you are faced with de-junking your home, especially if you were born during the Kennedy administration, the pastor/preacher in me feels compelled to share the two points God has laid on my heart about this task we undertook. I say from God because on my own I do not think I would have equated filling a dumpster with old things with God’s forgiveness of our sins!

Let me start with the Scripture that came to mind as I pondered all this:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:11-12 NIV).

Much as I watched the company truck haul our old stuff away, God forgives our sins (when we come to him humbly asking Him to do so). The drivers job was to take the dumpster away, not fill it for us. So too we must come before our merciful God seeking His forgiveness. The Apostle John describes it this way:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Like the things, some new, some old, that were cluttering up our living spaces, unrepented sin in our hearts keeps us separated from the closeness God wants us to know in Him. By cleaning out the garage and upstairs storage area, we can now walk safely through them. No longer is the thought running through my head that someday I must get rid of all this. It is gone because we hauled it to the light of day and then had it all taken away.

There is so much learn about God’s forgiveness! I hope, Precious Reader, you can glean some of the joy and excitement I am experiencing through this expression of how God continues to work in all who are willing to do their part. Betsy and I decided it was time to jettison the old, space-filling things, and then watched as they were taken away.

As I think about this, what a blessing forgiveness from God truly is. Psalm 103:12 tells us that He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. Just how far is that? Picture a globe and start moving east. You are always moving in that direction. Moving east never becomes starting to move west. God is telling us that He removes our transgressions to a point beyond measurement!

And one more thing. Much as I do not have to worry that the full dumpster will someday re-appear in my driveway, once God forgives things they are forgotten, (on His part). Our human frailties seem to want to examine that old useless and potentially harmless stuff. Not God! He spoke this truth through the Prophet Jeremiah as He described what the New Covenant of His forgiveness would be like:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b NIV).

God has promised to take away our sins. As proof look only to the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ that was shed for the remission of sin. We experienced a great reminder of this eternal truth as we watched the dumpster of unwanted things taken from our presence.

Having a clean and spacious garage is cool; remembering again the depth of God’s mercy and grace as evidenced by His willingness to forgive, however, is beyond compare.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

God Answers our Prayers!

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When we last met, Dear Reader, the discussion had to do with the question of whether or not God hears our prayers. This is an extremely important question for anyone who would venture into a communication with the Most High God. Because of its importance, the Almighty gives us clear answers that He does indeed hear all prayers offered to Him. If you recall, I offered just a few of the myriad passages from the Bible that clearly state that God hears what is spoken to Him in prayer.

However, the next logical question, “Does He answer every prayer?” does not come with such a distinct answer. To be clear from the start, I wholeheartedly believe that our Heavenly Father does answer our prayers. The confusion on this point comes from us: What are our expectations? Do we trust God to answer? How do we know it’s Him answering? Why do I have to wait for an answer? Is ‘No’ sometimes the answer He gives?

These are valid questions that people have been asking with for centuries. As I said, I believe that God does answer every prayer. He is omnipotent; therefore He has the ability to do this. God is love; therefore He has the heart to answer them all.

The responsibility to receive/understand/accept the answer falls squarely on our shoulders. Far too many people, in my opinion, keep God in a small box, calling on him only when they are faced with some great or sudden need. This shallow approach to faith seems to think that God is far off somewhere, doing who knows what, and that He has a magic button to push to fulfill our request when we send it.

No, God is not a cosmic yes-man. Rather, He is magnificent beyond words and completely beyond us. Yet, His desire is for us to get to know Him as best we can. His heart is for us to enter into a loving and caring relationship with Him. Within this relationship is the on-going invitation to speak to Him through our prayers.

By being intentional about spending time to develop the relationship with God on our end is how we can get to know more of the depth of God’s character. The better we know Him, the easier it becomes to trust Him. Our ability to trust will coincide with the depth our relationship with God. Would you trust a stranger with your hearts deepest desire? Of course not. Don’t keep God at arms-length in your life. At the risk of over-simplifying the profound depth of God’s desire for us to deepen our relationship with Him, consider this: We cannot learn to trust Him until we begin to trust Him.

As our relationship with the Almighty grows, we begin to have the ability to better discern how He is answering our prayers. Seeing ‘No’ as an answer becomes a little clearer, if not easier to take. Again, trust is the key. God, who is outside the restriction of time you and I live under, knows the future. With this knowledge, He is the best (and only) one capable of seeing all the repercussions of what we are asking.

A growing faith will develop more of this important trust. This then helps us to be a little more patient as we await a particular answer to prayer. I far too often still want what I want when I want it. I am learning, ever so slowing, that God always has my best interest in mind. Because He does, His answer, be it “yes, no or let’s wait on that,” is exactly what I need.

Be assured, I haven’t gotten to this place in my relationship with God overnight, and I still have miles to go before I get to the depth I believe He wants me to get to. My encouragement to you is this: No matter where you find yourself in your faith life, be intentional about growing closer to God, for as you get closer to Him, you get closer to the answer(s) He has for you.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Read and Heed

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We have a nice size backyard at our house. Since the kids have grown up and moved on, it hasn’t seen much use. That changed last year when we put up a fence to keep our Goldendoodle, Violet, from roaming. Last summer and so far this one my wife and I have spent many pleasant hours ‘out back’ playing fetch with the big black dog or sitting in the shade reading.

At this point (and hopefully toward the point of why I’m writing this, Dear Reader), I must mention that I have never been one to spend a lot of time tending my lawn. I mow and trim it but that’s about it. The backyard has remained quite green under my care, running at about a 60-40 percentage of actual grass to various types of weeds. That it has been green has been good enough for me.

One evening this past week, however, Betsy and I were noticing the increase of some broad-leafed weeds with whip-like stalks growing several inched high. Not only are they unsightly, but also somewhat unpleasant against our lower legs as we frolic with Violet.

I asked one of the groundskeepers at the college I’m helping out at this summer what I should do about the weeds. He suggested Weed and Feed, hopefully you catch how close that is to the title of these jottings. Pretending I knew what he was talking about, I thanked him and went back to my painting. Thank goodness for the internet I thought. I’ll research this when I get home.

I came upon the following from spring-green.com that not only helped me with my lawn issues, but also gave cause to today’s title, Read and Heed:

What is weed and feed? Weed and feed is an interchangeable, universal name given to a wide variety of lawn chemicals that have the purpose of strengthening the lawn by killing weeds. It generally improves your lawn’s ability to absorb water and food and adds necessary nutrients which promote healthy growth.

A healthy lawn, in turn, discourages weed propagation.

Simple enough, I will buy some weed and feed and apply it to the backyard with the purpose of turning it into a healthy lawn (that) discourages weed propagation.

Jesus told several parables that dealt with weeds, thorns and other invasive things. In Matthew 13:24-28 He likened the kingdom of heaven to a field that was sown with good seed only to have an enemy come at night and spread weeds among the good seed.

According to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9), a farmer sows seeds that fall on the path, shallow ground, among thorns and finally good soil. It is only from the good soil that the seed germinates and grows to its completion.

I say all this to ask both you and me: How are the seeds planted in you by Jesus doing? Healthy and multiplying? Being choked by worry? A mixture of both?

What is our personal ‘weed and feed’ solution? May I suggest Read and Heed. I have written before to encourage everyone to read your bible daily. May this serve as yet one more encouragement to do so! In its pages is the very heart of God. There is no better way, in my opinion, to get to know the Almighty than by reading His word.

But, like my weedy backyard, my life needs on-going care and guidance from above. The Bible is unlike any other book, EVER!. The writer of the Book of Hebrews describes it this way: For the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12a NIV). Because it is unique, the Bible is not meant to be simply read once and put away. It is living and active, but I need to not only take it in, I must ponder what it has to say. The timeless truths found within its pages are unchanging; but we and our world are changing nearly every moment.

Read, then pray over what you have just encountered. You do not need to be a biblical scholar before God will reveal more of Himself to you as you do. Remember, the goal is to get to know Him better and that is what He wants too! Jesus has delivered on the promise to send the Holy Spirit. One wonderful function of the Spirit of God is to help us understand the Scriptures (John 13:26).

God wants us to read His word and has provided His Spirit to enable us to get at the heart of His message of love to all. That is the bottom line of the Read part. Perhaps the Heed part will prove more difficult for you (it sure has for me).

To heed God’s word means that you not only accept the truth contained within it, but that you also make your best effort every day to live out His commands in the day to day of life.

Difficult? Sure can be. Rewarding? More than anything! And on so many different levels. Much as my backyard will begin to thrive as the weeds are driven out; I assure you that if you take seriously the commitment to Read and Heed God’s word, your life will become more plush as well.

Let me be clear, I am not spouting some foolish prosperity message to you. There is no huge lottery prize awaiting you if you get through the Book of Leviticus. But allow me to be just as clear, the rewards awaiting are truly amazing and of an eternal scope for those who endeavor to deepen their relationship with the Almighty.

I have found that embracing the Read and Heed approach to God’s Holy Scriptures has indeed been/is a huge blessing to me. It would take many more posts to mention even some of them. But for now let me say it this way, the weeds that threatened to overgrow parts of my mind and heart and been removed. Instead, there is plush new growth as God draws me closer to Him.

And believe me, there is absolutely nothing special about me personally in this regard. I merely came to God with a willingness to be taught/corrected/encouraged by what He has to say in that living document that is the Bible. He is faithfully doing that in me and will for you as well!

Take care of the intruding weeds in your heart and mind quickly and thoroughly, you’ll be so blessed as you do!

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

PS: I mentioned that you need not be a bible scholar to gain access to the Lord through His word. That’s good, because I am not one. However, I have been at this a while and would welcome your thoughts, questions or concerns about what you are reading. I will share my email with your should you want any of those discussions to be of a more private nature.

PC

Blessings to go

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As I have made mention of in the past, I am a person who is most comfortable in structured situations. I’m a planner, and as such like to have a back-up plan in place in case something goes wrong with my first plan. I work best from a list, using multiples ones each day to help me achieve what I need to.

You may rightly assume from the above that routine is something I embrace. Take the following as an example during these summer months as I return to my old painting job to lend a hand: Arriving home each day from work, the next day’s work clothes are laid out and lunch is made before showering. I find it comforting to know that these tasks are out of the way, allowing me to get into whatever is next on my home list for the evening. This also frees up time in the morning for devotional/bible reading.

Leaving my house to go anywhere also has a pattern that I follow: Wallet back left pocket, check. Phone front left pocket, check. Gates in place to keep the dog where she needs to be while I’m gone, check. Mask? Got it. You get the idea.

It occurs to me, however, that my leaving the house ritual has been missing something that I far too often leave behind: blessings! I was reminded of this in one of the devotionals I read this morning. It basically said that one should leave their home (or wherever) being intentionally ready to bless someone that you meet.

What a great idea! It’s another opportunity to share the love of God with the world around me. After all, I have been blessed beyond measure by the Almighty. Why not share some of that, in whatever form it takes, with the folks I encounter daily. Obviously, the blessing I share will vary upon each opportunity. The important point is that I remain mindful of all God has done for me and then be willing to share what I can of that precious love.

I realize this would look different to each of us. As I write this, I am not sure what it will look like for me. But I have decided this: Before going out my door, I am going to stop for a moment to get my heart and mind set in the ‘blessing way.’ I plan on doing this any number of ways. For example, I will realize that I have a warm and safe place to live. Carrying this thought with me may well prepare me to share with a homeless individual I meet.

Or maybe I’ll simply acknowledge the peace of God that reigns in my home, making me ready to share God’s peace with employees at the store I am going to.

Whatever the blessing you give away today, the world around you will be a little better off because of it. Now imagine if a majority of folks became intentional about sharing a blessing like this. Doesn’t that sound like something our world could use right about now?

If you have a moment, please share with me how you are going to carry this forward. Thanks.

Blessings to you (in case I don’t see you in person today!)

Pastor Chuck

The New Normal

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I have lost count of the number of times I have thought or verbalized the desire to have things get back to normal. But what is normal; or maybe the better question is: what was normal. As many of you know by now, I like to go to the dictionary as a jumping off point. Doing so again, I find the Cambridge English dictionary definition of normal as ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected.

In other words, my normal is what I am used to. Like many, I take great comfort in routine. So much so, in fact, that as I ponder this today, it is in the very routine that my comfortability comes from, not the things I do routinely. This tells me that I do not necessarily put much thought or creativity into the tasks that make up my day, for it is the very doing of them that creates my normal routine. Doing things in this fashion helps to keep them like the folks at Cambridge said, ordinary or usual, the same as would be expected.

As I consider this through the lens of the last 8 weeks, when little or none of the old normal has been found, I am sure I’m not alone. I am longing for something that no longer exists, desiring to go back to a time when I had a semblance of control of things. In the midst of uncertainty, the strong desire is to look backward toward what I thought I knew rather than forward into a great unknown.

I wonder if similar thoughts were going through Peter’s mind in John Chapter 21. If you’d like, hit pause and go read John 21:1-14 for the written account.

Welcome back! For the rest, here’s my Reader’s Digest version of that section of Scripture: Jesus had already appeared twice to His disciples since His resurrection. The events described in these verses took place sometime in the week since the second appearance. Peter and the boys were still dazed and confused by all they had recently seen. Their leader arrested, tried and executed only to see Him alive three days later! That’s more than enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Recall that fishing was the way of life for Peter and a number of the other original disciples of Jesus, including John, the author of the verses being considered here. The narrative tells us these men were standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where they had previously made their living. I think it a fair guess to say that they were looking for something normal in their new reality.

Peter, a leader of the group, verbalizes this thought when he announces, “I’m going out to fish.” (John 21:3 NIV). He was going out in a boat searching not only for fish, but I assume also for some sense of normal in those most unsettled days. His companions quickly agree to go with Peter, no doubt experiencing similar feelings.

The rest of the story serves as a lesson to them and any of us that would look to the past as the way to go into the future. They fished all night without landing any. Remember, this was not sitting with your feet up waiting for a fish to bite, but rather strenuous work of castings nets and then hauling them back to the boat. They did this all night with zero gain for their efforts.

My takeaway from their futile attempt to re-establish a normal that no longer exists: don’t make the same mistake today. To grasp for something that is no longer there is not only a waste of time, it is self-centered. If my goal is to get back to a time when I was comfortable because I believed I knew what was going on displays a lack of true insight. I have to ask myself, for whom was I doing whatever it was I was involved in? If my honest answer to that reveals even some indication toward selfishness, I need to evaluate the motivation of what I do going forward, as a new ‘normal’ begins to reveal itself.

I feel encouraged as I write this, even as I have discovered some of my motives to maintain normal have been self-serving. For as difficult as it is to find this out about myself, my hope in the new normal is heightened as I read how that fishing expedition ended after Jesus appeared to the disciples on the shore.

Following His instruction, they cast their net one more time. As they hauled it back toward the boat, they discovered a catch of fish the likes of which they had never seen! So many fish that the boat was nearly sunk.

If following the lead of Jesus can bring that level of excitement as the new normal, then allow me to figuratively voice what Peter did, “I going to fish!”

I’d loved to hear how/what the new normal looks like to you.

As always, thanks for reading. Blessings to you all and be safe,

Pastor Chuck