Fixing Bad Deals

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

(David said) “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and those whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Romans 4:7-8

The small town barber found himself facing some financial difficulties. 

When he was the only barber in town, he had made a reasonable, if not a good living, at his trade. But now he was no longer the only barber in town. A franchise had set up shop and, in two-foot tall letters on its front window, proclaimed, “All haircuts $3. Walk-ins welcome.”

Three dollars? The experienced barber had been charging $5.

He knew he couldn’t survive if he tried to beat his competition’s price.

Now there are certain advantages to living and working in a small town. One of those advantages is that many people still believe in supporting local businesses, even if that support is going to cost them a dollar or two.

Because of that attitude, the barber found many of his clients kept on coming. And although there was a slow, steady drop in profit, there wasn’t any mass exodus to the new salon. Even so, after two years the barber realized his business wasn’t going to survive. That’s when he visited with a wise friend and asked if he might find a solution.

The friend asked for a day or two to think it over.

On the third day, the friend showed up with a sign that he hung in the barber’s window. Very simply the sign read, “We Fix Bad $3 Haircuts!” Business turned around immediately and stayed turned around.

My dad could have used this place back on the day he refused to pay $3.00 for what had been a $1.50 haircut. He said he would have paid $10.00 to get that bad hair cut fixed.

Now, if we remember nothing else from this devotion, it would be good if we remember that Jesus fixes the bad deals we have made in our lives. Looking back at our years we can probably identify a good many times when we made a bad deal. We were tempted to do the wrong thing, and made a bad deal. Time and again we have been wooed away from the Lord and made a bad deal.

But Jesus fixes those bad deals.

Through the Holy Spirit we are called to faith. With faith in the Christ our sins are forgiven, and we are brought to see that we are encouraged to grow in the likeness of Christ. The bad deals are forgotten, and we are once again God’s children.

New life is ours all because Jesus fixes bad deals.

Dear Lord, I have made some bad deals in my life. Some of these deals could have been life destroying. But you searched me out and brought me home with you and made me part of your family. Dear Jesus thank you for loving me enough….  Amen.

Grace and Peace


Really Forgiven

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?” – Mark 2:7-9

I have a theory: there was an 11th commandment that fell off the tablets.  (We already know Moses broke one set, and my tablet breaks all the time, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched.)

10. You shall not covet…a lot of things. 11. You shall feel incredibly guilty, unworthy and insecure if you break numbers 1-10 or do anything that anyone has ever considered less-than-perfect.

How else to explain what I hear every day?:

“I feel terrible – I was relieved when she died.”  (Said the son who took care of his mother with Alzheimer’s for six years.)

“My kids are messed up forever because I’m repeating my mother’s mistakes.  I once threw a packet of gum into the back seat because they wouldn’t stop fighting. Oh, God, now I’ve dishonored my mother.  Oh, God, – and taken God’s name in vain. Twice.” (Said every parent ever.)

“If I were a better husband/friend/______ (insert your personalized noun here _____!), s/he wouldn’t have _____/gotten sick/taken-scissors-to-the-church’s-upholstered-chairs.”

Sometimes I think that we aren’t that different from the scribes.  We trust a little white pill can heal our bodies, but we are shocked at the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Creator of the Universe can heal our souls.

Yes, we must face our sins; no, we can’t ignore them. But rules are rules because we break them; they aren’t meant to keep us away from God, but to draw us closer.

So how would life be different if you trusted you were forgiven?  Really trusted?

It’s time to figure it out, folks, because the only 11th commandment I know about is the one in John 13 – the one that says to love each other, because God loves us.

Yes, even – especially – you.  
Healing God, help me carry your forgiveness with me today like a prescription.  Remind me to take it out and look at it the next time I’m tempted to guilt myself about _____ (“random” example: playing hooky to go tubing on a hot August day…).  Amen.

Grace and Peace


Infraction Reaction

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Although it’s only September, I am able to share that Scrooge is alive and well. Actually, his name is not Scrooge. It’s John Devaney, a 64-year-old resident of Narragansett, Rhode Island. Of course, Mr. Devaney doesn’t walk around saying, “Bah, humbug, Christmas!” No, our present-day Scrooge makes his displeasure known by suing folks. Right now he has filed against Rhode Island’s Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Bishop T. J. Tobin, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, and Pope Francis.

And if you are wondering what these supposed scallywags have done to Mr. Devaney, I can tell you his lawsuit accuses them of having violated his rights and denying him the “peaceful enjoyment of his property.” Indeed, Mr. Devaney claims the actions of these folks have been part of the reason he is divorced. Because of what they have done, he has been left irritable and argumentative.

And if you want to know exactly what these folks have done, I can share they have done nothing other than being remotely connected to St. Thomas More Catholic Parish and St. Peters by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. It is these churches that are responsible because they ring their bells.

That’s it. Those bonging bells are responsible for Mr. Devaney’s divorce.

Now I’ve had some fun here at the expense of Mr. Devaney, but the truth is most of us get irritable and argumentative because of little things which, quite often, aren’t sins. Me, I get upset when people leave their shopping carts in the middle of a parking space … or when they drive s-l-o-w-l-y in the fast lane … or when they come in during the last five minutes of a two-hour movie and ask, “What’s happened so far?” or ….

Wow! I didn’t know my list was that long.

Maybe yours is too.

So, what shall we do about our out-of-proportion-to-the-infraction reaction? I think the answer can be found in the life of Jesus. As I look at Jesus’ time on earth, I can plainly see Jesus always loved sinners. No matter what they did, He continued to care for them, reach out to them, call them to repentance of their sins, and offer them forgiveness and restoration.

Because Jesus loved them doesn’t mean He loved everything about them. Read the Gospels and you will find that Jesus wasn’t overly pleased with the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, with the crowd’s earthly demands, and with His own disciples’ lack of understanding. He loved those moneychangers, but He still upset their tables, didn’t He?

Now the church must always stand with the things of God, but search as I will, I find nothing in the Bible that condemns unreturned shopping carts, slow drivers, or folks who come late to movies. This is why we church people must work at putting aside all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. In its place we are to substitute forgiveness and a tender heart.

It’s a big order, but it’s something we need to do because Jesus doesn’t want His followers to be crabby, cantankerous Scrooges.

Dear Lord, let me keep my eyes focused on repairing my shortcomings, failures and sins. When it comes to others, may I treat them as Jesus has dealt with me… with tenderness, love and mercy. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Standing on The Corner

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

(God said) “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18b

Oklahoma City’s eight-year-old Malachi Peterson is in trouble for many different reasons. 

*He is in trouble with his school principal because he picked a fight at school.

*He is in trouble with the girls because the fight he picked was about who got to get the girl.

*He is in trouble with his mother because she thinks he is becoming a bully.

That’s an awful lot of trouble for a young man. Thankfully, Peterson is not the subject of this devotion. No, Peterson is off the hook. Instead, we are talking about Peterson’s mom. Wishing to nip her son’s bullying in the bud, Janie Peterson made her son stand out on a street corner holding a sign which said, “I PICKED A FIGHT BECAUSE I’M A BULLY.”

I couldn’t help but start hearing that old tune in my head, the words of which go like this: “Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by….” That isn’t particularly sinful, even though I guess it could come mighty close. But imagine standing there with that bill board listing all your sins. I would want to hide my face and not let anyone know that I was the one who committed these sins against God and other people. Would it work for you? You can make your own assessment.

According to Janie Peterson, public reaction to the punishment she gave her boy has been very positive. 

At any rate, the story of Malachi Peterson got me to thinking. I’m pretty sure none of us would like that street corner. No, we wouldn’t like it a bit. I know nobody would like it because all of us go to great lengths to hide our sins. Robbers wear masks, thieves work under cover of darkness, and white collar criminals hide their misdeeds in a set of doctored books. Most of us just do our best to keep those sins locked away where nobody else can see them.

Like Adam and Eve, we do our best to hide our transgressions from everybody. Of course, we can’t hide those wrongdoings from the Lord. His all-knowingness sees our sin and His justice condemns that sin. Even if we manage to hide our sins from everybody else in the universe, God knows our long list of transgressions.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that, along with seeing and hating our transgression, God continues to love us. So that we helpless souls might be forgiven, redeemed and restored. Jesus’s love erased our cards and made them clean.

Every Sunday, we confess our sins and we all respond: “In the name of Jesus, we are forgiven.” Thank God for that!

Dear Lord, thank you for taking that long, long slate of sins I have committed over the years and wiping it clean. I could not do this on my own or under my own power – only by your grace can I find your forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. Amen.

Grace and Peace



Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“O Lord God to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!  Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud.  Lord, how long will the wicked triumph?” – Psalm 94:1-3 (NKJV)

People of faith are quite varied in our responses as to how the United States should respond to the atrocities of chemical weapons unleashed on the people of Syria, allegedly under the direction of President Bashad al-Assad.

Some feel strongly that the mass murder in Syria warrants some type of military retaliation, on the part of the U.S. and her allies, that would at least weaken the capacity for any future use of chemical weaponry against citizens.  Others believe that anything short of a full commitment to a regime change in Syria will not make much of a difference.  Still others contend that as horrendous as the tragedy in Syria is, the United States cannot afford to entangle itself in another foreign conflict, given the urgent problems we face at home with our staggering economy, unsustainable energy, educational dysfunctions and health care confrontations.

Whether the issue at hand is atrocity in Syria or genocide in Rwanda or slaughter in the Sudan, there is one moral principle that should guide all of our moral responses.  It is the conviction that vengeance does not belong within the purview of human action.  Vengeance is a designated function that God reserves exclusively for God’s self.

This certainly does not mean that people of faith are to take no responsibly for the execution of justice in the world.  It does mean that whatever actions we take to combat and correct socio-political evil must always be tempered with a profound sense of humility and prayer – recognizing that we too are flawed agents operating in a much broader Providential process to deliver freedom and justice for all.

We must certainly win some victories on the way to God’s ultimate vengeance.  But let us not use any moral victory or moral cause as a license to assume ultimate vindication.  The vengeance of God is what keeps people of faith engaged but not arrogant – both in America and in Syria and all around the globe.

Dear God, Please help us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God, in and through Jesus.  Amen.

PS: I have been at the VA most of the day and not sure what is happening at the Washington Navy Yard. However, it looks like several people have been kill and others wounded. May we, of all faiths, come together to pray that we are not going to be part of killing innocent people – no matter where they are from, what they believe, what uniform they wear, or language they speak. Let’s stop the SENSELESS VIOLENCE.

Eyes in The Night

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20

See if you can get this one right.

What type of accident causes one million collisions that are responsible for 27,000 human injuries and $3.5 billion in damages?

Did you guess “texting”? Wrong! The correct answer is automobile accidents that involve deer. My sister-in-law is a great dear hunter with a vehicle.

Of course, there are other kinds of vehicle-animal accidents. A friend once had a parishioner who experienced nightmares because while driving he had come around a corner and saw hundreds of eyes staring at him. That was all he remembered before his car plowed into a herd of Black Angus cattle, which had broken down a fence and wandered onto the road.

Anybody who has been involved in such an accident wishes there was a way he could know, he could see, animals that were on or approaching the road.

If that describes you, I’ve got good news. Mercedes-Benz and Autoliv will soon offer Night View Assist Plus on their S-class automobiles. The system will identify people, cows, moose, deer, camels and wild boar. To make this option available the companies journeyed to five continents, catalogued thousands of animals and spent many millions of dollars.

I guess those are the hoops humanity has to jump through if we want to see that which once was hidden.

In contrast to our extremely limited vision, we have the Lord who knows everything because He sees everything. He knows the location of all the animals I mentioned and, along with that, He knows the position of every ant, bacteria, virus and mold spore. Because He knows these things, we shouldn’t be surprised He also knows everything about us.

And that fact, could be discomforting because it also means He knows our dark thoughts, our evil desires, our sinful longings, and our disobedient actions. He knows on our own we wandering humans will soon be mowed down by that which is lurking on or near the roads of our lives.

To prevent that tragedy God made a great — an unbelievable investment — to make us safe. His was an investment which cannot be measured in time or paltry dollars and cents. That’s because God’s investment was the life of His own Son.

Now because of the love of God and the grace of Jesus Christ we need no longer be afraid of collisions. They will come, but because of Jesus we are safe.

Dear Lord, we give thanks you have invested the life of your Son to keep us safe by the mercy and grace of Jesus. Through him we know that we are held safely in your loving arms no matter what is standing in the road around the next curve.  Amen.

Grace and Peace



Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Shirley and I were on Facebook earlier today and noticed some very good news; someone we knew, I officiated at their wedding, announced that he had just got the perfect job and would be moving closer to the beach. We thought that was wonderful news and so Shirley commented to them that we hope he and (we used his wife’s name) would be very happy in their new home.

A few moments later another friend of their’s responded with their joy because these two would now live closer to them. Very quickly a person we did not know, but had seen pictures of her on his Facebook page, responded lol. That was an odd, if not  hurtful thing to say. We don’t think it was “Lots Of Love” but “laugh out loud”.

Shirley looked more on his page and his wife’s page and found some interesting things. No one in her family is listed as a friend. She is listed as married while he lists nothing in that status.

I don’t know what is going on, but they are/were a beautiful young couple with great, great promise. I just hope they are ok.

But my fear is everything is not ok… because after the other woman wrote her lol… we were de-friended immediately.

I would have preferred a private note but I think I get the message. I would love to be proven wrong. My best wishes to these friends.

Facebook is life unfiltered by the brain. So many times we put things on there (and I believe we are encouraged to do so) before we think or in order to get a reaction.

I am so thankful that Jesus doesn’t de-friend me when I say things that may unintentionally be offensive or hurtful. I am glad that he can see me as I really am – warts and all – and still be my friend. We all need friends, especially Jesus.

Dear Lord, bless this young man and woman, and no matter what the situation may be, surround them with your love and your grace that they may live lives on the higher plane of life, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Shine Your Light on Me!

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Isaiah 9:2

A seventh-grade Sunday school teacher asked her students to read the ninth chapter of Isaiah, where it talks about how — because of Jesus — “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” 

Amazingly, the following week when the teacher asked how many of her pupils had completed the assignment, almost every hand went up. Feeling confident, she asked, “Do you remember, in verse two, what the people saw?”

Nobody seemed to remember.

Indeed, a couple of hands flew to their Bibles and began to look up the passage. Undaunted, the teacher encouraged, “I’ll give you a hint. The passage begins, ‘The people that walked in the darkness ….'” Nobody was brave enough to answer. Finally, with a fair amount of frustration, she decided to bribe the class. “There’s a some M & M’s (that is what I would do) for the first one who gets it right. ‘The people that walked in the darkness ….'”

With the motivation of some sweets, hands popped up all over the place. She called on one student. He answered, “The people walking in the darkness use less electricity.” No, that wasn’t right.

Another said, “The people who walked in the darkness stubbed their toes on the coffee table.” No, that wouldn’t do, either.

Another volunteered, “The people walking in the darkness are usually burglars.”

One student, quite confidently said, “The people who walked in the darkness could really use a flashlight.”

Just as the teacher was thinking about taking early retirement, one of the students found the passage and finished it, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

In our age that story is especially appropriate. There are a great many people who see Jesus in different ways. For some He is a “philosopher”; for others a “teacher”; for others He has become a “giver of moral platitudes.”

It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit’s that we see Jesus for who He really is — and was.

He is God’s perfect Son who came into an imperfect world to seek and save the lost (you and me). Because He has fulfilled the Law, rejected every sin, and conquered death, all who believe on Him as their Savior are given eternal life.

By God’s grace may we all be among those who, in Jesus, have seen God’s great light.

Dear Lord, once we were doomed to darkness. Now because of Jesus’ work we are brought into never-ending light. For this we give thanks. But we also pray that all others may be moved into the brightness of Your love, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Leave It All at the Cross

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

(God said) “… They shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:11b-12

Scripture says if you are in Christ, you are a new creation. My question is are you?

A lawyer moved into the community, hung out his shingle, and buried himself in his new practice. In the morning the townspeople saw him walk to work; in the evening he reversed the process. He was always alone; his head always hung low, and his shoulders always stooped. Even more, his face always seemed to show a sense of ongoing and profound sadness.

One day the lawyer confessed to a Christian artist that when he was just starting out, he had committed a grave error. That sin from yesterday was still, even now, weighing him down. The artist listened, but he gave no guidance or suggestions … at least not then.

Weeks later, he invited the lonely lawyer to come to his studio and see a newly completed painting. The attorney arrived and was surprised when he saw himself in the picture. Yes, it was his likeness, but it was somehow different. In the picture he had his shoulders back, his head lifted up, and a look of hope was shown in his smiling face.

Behind him in the background of that picture was a hill, and on that hill, an empty cross. At the foot of the cross had been placed, along with many others, a great, heavy package. The artist was implying that the lawyer had left his burden at the cross. At the cross he had found forgiveness and peace, which had made him a new creation.

The artist affirmed the lawyer’s interpretation of the painting.

But the artist went deeper when he pointed to the other packages at the cross. “These,” he said, “were packages that once belonged to other people.” Although he didn’t identify which one, the author acknowledged that one of those boxes had been his.

The boxes were different in size and content, but they had this in common: they had all been left at the cross.

That picture is one for all of us since all of us need to know that when Jesus is your Savior, when your sins are washed away, you become a new creature. Now I don’t know what that good news does for you. I can tell you what it did to the lawyer.

Carefully, he considered, “Is this how God wants me to look? Can burdens really be left at the cross? Is it possible?” Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s grace — the lawyer became a new creation.

Dear Lord Jesus, you carried the sins of the entire world to your cross. Since your work has been successfully completed, help us realize it is impossible for us to carry forgiven sins a second time. Thanks for all you have done and continue to do, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


%d bloggers like this: