Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Unwanted Gifts   Leave a comment

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Have you ever received a gift for Christmas that you did not want? Apparently my dad did…on more than one occasion. There were a couple of times my sister and I had opportunities to go through dad’s things, especially after he passed away several years ago. What we discovered were some gifts we had given him some time ago that he evidently never wanted. They were still in their original packaging, brand new. We found this to be a combination of sad, heartbreaking, and oddly hilarious all at once. We didn’t enjoy the discovery yet it didn’t completely surprise us either. Dad was never someone easy to shop for, so I’d imagine after a few years of socks, underwear, and t-shirts that I would have set them off to the side after a while too. After all, what does one do with unwanted gifts?

The story of Jesus’ birth also had an unwanted gift included.

Poor Joseph. He was pleasantly betrothed to that wonderful girl, Mary. We can only speculate how he felt about her because they likely knew one another somehow. We can make some assumptions, but knowing they were on the poor side makes one imagine if they were from families who lived in the same village who wanted to see these two get married. Speculations can be fun, but are pretty irrelevant.

The betrothal period lasted a year and couples were not permitted to have any hanky panky until after the wedding ceremony and feast. After that the normal activities of married couples could commence.

Sometime prior to Joseph’s angelic encounter we read about in Matthew 1, the worst kind of news possible happened to Joseph. Mary was pregnant, and he knew he had not been involved with the process. Now THERE’s a present nobody would want to receive – the one you love has apparently not been faithful. It is the epitome of an unwanted gift. He probably wished he had received extra underwear instead.

Thankfully, this story includes more than an unwanted gift. Joseph was, among other things, caring. He did not seek to have her disgraced (he could have had her killed) but instead opted to end their relationship without fanfare. This is a story of Joesph’s grace.

All of that happened before we get to the Biblical text where the angel appeared to Joseph, shared the news that he was about to become stepdad to the Messiah, and everything moved gloriously forward from there. Joseph showed remarkable kindness to Mary, and God showed even better kindness to them both. They would usher in the greatest gift of all–God’s love personified in Jesus Christ.

My hope for you this Christmas is that you have received the gift of God’s love too. It lasts much longer than socks.

A Note from a Sinner   Leave a comment

A Note from a Sinner:

I wish I was a perfect, sinless man. But I am not. I wish I was a perfect pastor. But I am not. I wish I had no evil thought ever to run through my mind. But they do. I wish I learned not to be judgmental. But at times, I cannot help it. I wish I had perfect leadership skills. But I do not. I wish I had unfailing moral values. But I do not. I wish I spent more time in prayer and meditation. But I do not. I wish I was a model Christian. But I am not.

Therefore, just like you, I am a sinner living under an unfailing grace that I do not deserve but gladly accept.

brown book page
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Folks whom I serve know that I am no “Bible thumper.” I am not a literalist, Pharisaic leader who asks people to live like me, talk like me, or believe like me or at least how I say you’re supposed to. I do everything in my power to help people turn to God in all things, period. I work at this daily in spite of not doing so to perfection.

As a fellow “work in progress,” I am deeply saddened by some events of yesterday. In a time of complete unrest, violent means were used to clear out people standing in peace for a photo op. A Bible was held in front of a place that has not seen that visitor since the day of swearing-in. I find this deeply insulting.

As an imperfect being trying to do my best for the Lord in spite of my failures, I find it challenging at best to understand this action. Why wasn’t this Bible opened? Why weren’t words of assurance and peace from these Scriptures shared? Why aren’t the values that fill the book proclaimed and portrayed?

Many are referring to this as a publicity stunt. I’ll let history tell that story and make those judgments. I know the person holding that Bible is very much like me, a non-perfect, sinful man. I will not judge him, that is not my job. But I will stand for my faith and for God’s holy word.

Please, in everything you do, keep the sacred, well, sacred. Do not use God’s word, God’s house, or God’s name in any way that does not bring honor to God. In all you do, let the light of Christ shine in and through you. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (NRSV). Today, I want to do a better job of living that way. Even if I do not do so to perfection, it does not give me an excuse to not try.

I wish I was a perfect, sinless man. But I am not.

Love, Pep

Easter 2020   2 comments

God’s Call and Lessons Learned   1 comment

January 26, 1996. Twenty years ago today I experienced an epiphany. I felt the hand and heard the voice of God. Some do not believe such things are possible and I’m fine with that. What I know is my own experience. I was being shaped and molded proceeding that moment, and remarkable events have defined my life and ministry since. I could write volumes of the things I have experienced in times gone by, but this is a blog, not a novel. For this anniversary I want to summarize some lessons learned in this fantastic adventure. Perhaps they will serve as helpful hints to others called by God.

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Anniversary   Leave a comment

15 years.  Incredible.  15 years ago today I began an adventure in full-time ministry.  The things I have learned since March 1, 1999 could fill volumes in a library and 800GB of memory.  Perhaps it is best if I just point out the bigger lessons…

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