Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Now that we've landed in Austin, I was able to hear Caz's sermon Sunday about being "stuck." 
 That story he told about being stuck in a swampy area of a restricted forest preserve with some of his college buddies in the middle of the night was a pretty graphic illustration of being really stuck!  And feeling desperate.  And not knowing how to get out.   

Have you ever been there?   Have you ever gotten "stuck" in a situation because of really poor judgement, or just being a really healthy sinner?  Or just circumstances that you didn't see coming?  Several years ago I was really "stuck" financially, mainly because of a series of really bad  decisions I 'd made that over-extended us to the point where we were drowning.  We were "off-road"- not in a used off-road Ranger Rover, but in a brand-new Buick that we couldn't afford (among other things.)  It was bad.   And I remember how hard it was to admit how messed up things were, and to ask for help.  It was especially hard to ask for help from God.  Because, after all, it was my fault.  And I had been taught that mistakes were terrible things that were shameful.  And so why should I expect God to help me?   I was discussing this mess with a wonderfully kind and wise woman who was the loving mother of four children.  She said, "Rick, if one of my kids went outside in the rain without a coat and caught pneumonia, do you think I wouldn't take care of them, even if it was their fault?"   She was reminding me that our God is a God of mercy and compassion.  Psalm 103 says,
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

In other words:  He already knows we're broken... that we're messed up.  That's why His Son had to come-- to pull us out of the "stuck" places that our sin gets us into.   Sometimes we can't admit that we're broken until we're so stuck that we get desperate.   Desperate people are open to grace- because they know they don't have anything else.  That's why that "first step" is so essential-- whether you're in a 12-Step recovery program or just a garden-variety sinner:  to admit that you're powerless... broken...  "dust".. messed up.   Once you do that, then the Truth can set you free.

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

                                                                                                   ~Pastor Rick




Thursday, April 9, 2015


"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about...  You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
                                                                                                    (Acts 1:4, 8)

After the first Easter-- when Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to those He loved-- the disciples were faced with a whole new reality to embrace.  Out of the most extreme feelings of loss, confusion, grief, and in some cases, guilt-- just when they thought that everything had come to a tragic end--  Jesus showed them a new beginning.   Even then, they had trouble embracing what it meant and what was expected of them.  Jesus was talking to them about a new kind of power-- the power of the Holy Spirit-- but their thinking was still old-school:  "Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?"  They still didn't get it.  They were hoping to take part in an earthly kingdom, but Jesus was offering them something different-- something better:  the POWER of the Holy Spirit living inside them.  A new reality.

New beginnings often come out of pain and loss.  A few months ago the little church where I was associate pastor merged with a much larger church.   Within just a few weeks I realized that I was losing  my church and my ministry.  There was a lot of hurt, confusion, loss, and grieving.  But what felt like loss was actually an open door directing us to our new ministry here in Austin: a ministry mainly to our family, who needed us close by.  And we're already experiencing the joy and excitement that comes when you're in the place God wants you to be.

It is just like God to replace a loss with something better.  But just like the first disciples, you have to hang in there through the pain and confusion to see the new beginning He has for you.  Because God is always good, we can trust Him to always  do what is best for us.

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great POWER for us who believe."     (Ephesians 1:18-19)

~Pastor Rick