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Category Archives: Personal growth

Snack through the Bible

Do I crave biblical knowledge? Do I long for more of God’s presence? Do I have a healthy appetite for God’s Word? Do I thirst for more of God?

1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” Do I crave spiritual nourishment like a baby craves the bottle?

Do I have a healthy spiritual diet? Have I settled for a handful of spiritual supplements, or worse yet, filled up on spiritual junk food? Does my spiritual diet consist of a random verse here and there, periodic reading of a devotional guide, or occasionally listening to snippets of a radio preacher? Have I blunted my appetite by settling for a handful of spiritual snacks? Am I a spiritual anorexic, slowly starving myself to death spiritually?

Has my taste of God’s goodness (1 Peter 2:3) whetted my appetite for more of God? Or have I treated God’s good gifts like a snack run through Costco, a bite of this and that to fill me up on a less than balanced meal?

Mark Twain once said, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” 1 Peter 2:1-3 is one of the latter passages for me. It is far too clear for me to ignore. I need to wrestle with how to make it more real in my daily life.

May God grant me a greater hunger and thirst for himself, his word, and his presence.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2018 in 1 Peter, Bible Study, Personal growth

 

The Question of Commitment

“I didn’t think you should go to Russia.” I have heard that sentiment from more than one person since I returned from my most recent trip. Some were concerned about my mobility issues (using a cane while still recovering from my broken leg/hip). Others were worried about the blood clots in my calf and flying for hours on end. Still others were concerned about the tension between the USA and Russia over politics, Syria, etc. While I appreciated the concern, I also appreciated the fact that most waited until afterwards to voice their reservations.

Without being overly defensive, let me try to explain why I proceeded with the trip as planned.

  • I tend to be optimistic. When told in November I was facing a six-month recovery process, I calculated that April was the sixth month and barring a setback, I should be recovered enough to proceed.
  • While cautious, I am not fearful. I am not risk averse. I choose not to live in fear of “what if?” I know I am safer in harm’s way if I’m in God’s will than I am sitting at home in my easy chair. If I am overly worried and fearful, I also know that is a giant that needs to be conquered.
  • I feel a responsibility to use my gifts for God’s glory (Matthew 25:14-30). I don’t want to stand before God and have him ask me why I took it easy or didn’t do more with what he has given me.
  • Something has happened every time I’ve gone on a short-term ministry trip that I have had to trust God for (health, job, political crisis, personnel, car repairs, family, etc.). My injury was just one more thing.
  • I listened to and trusted my doctors. None of my doctors—surgeon, primary care physician, vascular surgeon—were overly concerned about my mobility and/or blood clots. None of them told me to stay home. All three said I should not have any problems. I also followed their instructions for my prescriptions, compression socks, and walking.
  • I went with the blessing of my wife and church elders.
  • I knew I had help while traveling—wheelchair assistance in airports, and the friends I travel and work with.
  • Having built a friendship over several years with the missionaries I work with and the men and women I would be teaching, I would have been disappointed had I not been able to keep my commitment.

I am grateful for answered prayer. I am thankful that God healed me enough that I was able to travel. I am grateful that he protected me while traveling. I am thankful that he blessed the ministry. I am grateful that he continues to use me to teach and equip others.

Thanks be to God!

 
 

Sixmonthiversary

Today marks six months since I fell and broke my leg/hip in November. At that time, I was told it would take about six months to recover and get back to normal. While I am not yet 100%, I am getting much closer. The original time estimate seems pretty accurate.

  • While I am not yet ready to give up my cane completely, I am walking more without it, at least while I am indoors. I still take it outdoors in case I get tired or it is raining.
  • I mowed the lawn over the weekend, which is normally a two-hour walk behind the mower. It helped to have something to hang on to. I was stiff and sore afterwards, but with a feeling of accomplishment.
  • I was able to stand behind the pulpit while preaching a funeral on Saturday. Other than our Good Friday service, that’s the first time I stood while speaking without leaning on something for an extended period of time.

Very soon I will be able to look back and say, “Look what God did!” Thanks for your concern, encouragement, and prayer support.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2018 in Health, Personal growth

 

Pride hinders givers from receiving

It puzzles me why givers have trouble being receivers. It bothers me that servants struggle with letting others serve them. Unfortunately, I am guilty of the same problem. My pride, independence, and self-sufficiency get in the way of me being on the receiving end.

As I contemplated traveling to Russia, I wondered how I would navigate the airports. I had been going to the mall and to the church gymnasium to walk several times a week in order to build up my stamina and endurance. Walking an airport terminal would be a tiring challenge, but I figured I could do it. A friend suggested I request a wheelchair service. I listened and made the arrangements.

After I said goodbye to Carol at Boston Logan Airport, the wheelchair attendant whisked me through security and all the way up and down the terminal to the departure gate. It was the best $5 tip I ever spent. As boarding began, a ticket agent wheeled me to the door of the airplane and I was the first one on board.

When I landed in Amsterdam, there was no one to meet me, so I walked all the way from the arrival gate to the front door. A long, slow, walk. When I approached passport control, an attendant said she didn’t want me standing in a long line, so she took me to the front to the next available agent.

When John, Naomi, and I checked in for the next flight to Moscow, John told the agent I had requested wheelchair service. A chair was produced and John wheeled me through security to the departure lounge and eventually to the departure gate.

When we landed in Moscow, I walked off the plane past a wheelchair sitting in the jet way. I assumed it was someone “who needed it.” Naomi mentioned it was available, and I responded, “I’ll be fine.” John countered, “Pride.” Shortly after his incisive comment, an attendant came up with a wheelchair and said, “Mr. Wheeler? I was waiting for you.” I apologized and allowed him to take me through passport control to baggage claim and then to an airport restaurant where we had dinner.

Accepting help chafed against my independent, self-sufficient nature. My pride would have worn me out physically and robbed others of the joy of serving.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Character, Personal growth, Russia, Travel

 

Champing at the bit

“Champing at the bit refers to the tendency of some horses to chew on the bit when impatient or eager. In its figurative sense, it means to show impatience while delayed, or just to be eager to start.”

One thing I’ve learned about myself during my recovery and rehab from a broken hip is how impatient I am. I know I am improving and showing progress, but it is still not fast enough, at least in my rush towards normalcy. Many times over the past months I have whined, “How long, O Lord? Will I ever be able to …?” My impatience is even more evident when you factor in the fact I am leaving for Russia in two days.

As you may be aware, I fell off a ladder and broke my hip on November 6 and had surgery the following day on November 7. I was told it would be approximately a six-month recovery process—three months to heal and three months to get stronger and back to normal. I did the math in my head and concluded I should be able to make my annual trip to Russia in April as planned. (I go once a year to help train pastors and leaders. I typically teach a three-day class on a book of the Bible.) Two weeks ago, I realized that six months was the beginning of May. It dawned on me that I’m trying to cram the recovery process into five months. It’s no wonder I’m not 100% and back to normal.

Despite my frustration and impatience, I have made considerable progress. After the surgery in November, I started in a wheelchair. I then progressed to a walker for several weeks, then to two crutches for a time, and then to one crutch for a couple of weeks. One month ago, I started using a cane, and last week I started taking some halting steps on my own two feet. I’m not ready to ditch the cane completely so I will be taking it on my trip which the surgeon recommended I do.

I wrap up 8 weeks of physical therapy this afternoon. My therapist has added more exercises and weight to my regimen. I am now able to do some things without pain that I could barely do at the beginning. John, my PT, said that about every three weeks, I show incremental significant progress, and that I have yet to plateau. He is encouraged and points out my progress. Again, I’m improving, just not fast enough for my liking.

After sleeping in a recliner for five months, I’m now back in my own bed. I can get into and stand up in the shower on my own two feet. I’m able to walk laps in the church gymnasium or shopping mall which shows my endurance and stamina is increasing.

Other than the weakness in my leg & hip and the blood clot(s) in my calf, I’m relatively healthy. Since my primary care physician deemed me “a Coumadin failure,” he switched me over to Xarelto (blood thinner). I saw a vascular surgeon this week and he was not overly concerned about the clots. He told me to stay on Xarelto for three months, wear compression socks, and he’d do another ultrasound in July. All three of my doctors (surgeon, primary care physician, and vascular surgeon) said I should not have any issues flying to Russia.

Thanks to God’s grace and your prayers, I have come a long way in five months. I still have miles to go before I reach normalcy. I champ at the bit to be done with canes and PT. I long to be pain free and walk without limitations.

Despite my impatience, God has demonstrated grace and poured out his healing. I am grateful for what he has done and continues to do in my life.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2018 in Health, Personal growth, Russia

 

Be ready to give an answer

Because the Sally Browns of the world are looking for answer, I must study, prepare, and be ready to give an answer. Since people are looking to me for guidance, I need to be in the Scriptures on a regular basis. Not just preparing the next sermon or lesson, but seeking to grow in my knowledge of God and his word.

1 Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in Peanuts, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Clean Hearts in a Dirty World

Is holiness possible today?

We might agree that holiness is an essential characteristic of God. We might also agree that Scripture says that we are to be holy. But if we are honest, we don’t think that we can ever be holy ourselves.

When it comes to holiness, there are many misconceptions. We have the idea that holy people are religious fanatics, and we don’t want to be thought of as “holier-than-thou.” We believe that a lifestyle of holiness will cause us to be miserable. Former quarterback Joe Theismann allegedly explained to his soon-to-be-ex second wife why he had an affair: “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.” Holy people are hypocrites, or so we believe. A hypocritical Boston tycoon once told Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the top of Mount Sinai in the Holy Land and read the Ten Commandments aloud.” “Why don’t you stay right home in Boston,” suggested Twain, “and keep them?”

Scripture calls us to live holy lives. In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we are told to set our hope on Christ and live a holy life. I don’t believe God sets us up for failure. If he gives us a command, it is with the expectation that it is possible to do it.

Verse 13 begins with the word, “Therefore …” I was always told that anytime you see the word, “therefore,” you need to find out what it is “there for.” What Peter is saying is that in light of our great salvation (1-12), we are to live differently. Salvation should have an impact on our lives. In fact, Peter points out five areas where salvation changes how we live.

  • Mental outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God.
  • Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives.
  • Worship (1:17-21). We are to live life governed by reverence for God.
  • Relationships (1:22-25). We are to love one another.
  • Spiritual disciplines (2:1-3). We are to be nourished by spiritual food.

Today, we are looking at the first two areas. We will examine the remaining three areas after Easter.

Mental Outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God. Peter begins with the idea of having a steadfast hope. This is much more than a wishing well kind of hope. “I hope it doesn’t snow this week. I hope my team wins the World Series.” It is a confident expectation of what God is going to do. By linking it to verses 1-12, Peter is saying that on the basis of what happened when Christ came the first time, we are to put our full confidence in what will take place when he comes again.

We are to act like we mean business. We are to prepare our minds for action. It literally says, “gird up the loins of your mind.” It pictures someone wearing a long garment. If they wanted to move quickly or run, they would gather up the garment and tuck it into their belt. Today, we might say, “Roll up your sleeves and get to work.” We are to have a sense of intentionality about how we think. We need to gather all the random, disparate thoughts and focus them on God and his kingdom.

John Brown, a 19th Century Scottish theologian said, “Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wils.”

In addition, we are to be sober-minded and avoid mental intoxication. Rather than live a life of self-indulgence, we are to live discipline and self-controlled lives.

What distracts you from focusing on God? Are there other things that you place your hope in? If you really believed Christ would return today, how would you live? Wrestling with these types of questions will help us to focus our thoughts and hope squarely on Christ.

Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives. Holiness refers to purity or moral integrity. It involves separation from all that is morally impure and evil. It is dedication to a life of righteousness. As these verses explain, God has called us to a life of holiness. It is NOT optional.

Rather than command us to be obedient, Peter says we are to act like obedient children. In essence, we have an obedient nature and should act in light of that.

We are to actively resist our own temptations. Rather than be controlled by our desires, we are to control them. As unbelievers, we were ignorant of God’s standards. Now that we know better, we should live differently.

Holiness should permeate every aspect of our being. We are to be holy in the classroom, on the playground, at work, at home, in our workplace, in our schools, in our homes. Holiness should pervade every area of our lives and personalities.

In pursuing holiness, we demonstrate the family resemblance. God is the ultimate model of holiness and we are called to be like him.

As we evaluate our lives, we should ask ourselves several questions. Does this activity conform to the character of God? Is it the natural outcome of a life that has benefited from salvation? Will it stand up to God’s scrutiny in that final day when we stand before his presence?

We are to set our hope on Christ and live holy lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.