All posts by Paul Merrill

About Paul Merrill

Observing the shiny bits of life since I can remember.

The hard stuff

The Bible has a lot of hard stuff inside – things we may not want to hear or even try to understand. And it’s even harder to think about, since we hear different messages from just about every direction – messages that go against the grain of what God intended for us to live and experience.

It’s easy to blame others for these wrong messages: the industry that produces today’s entertainment, politicians or church leaders.

When Paul was writing to the people of Colossae, he stated that he wanted to proclaim “his [God’s] entire message to you.” Not part, but all.

As I look to the Bible to find truths that will help me follow Jesus, it’s easy to skip over the parts that don’t fit with what I am feeling each day. It’s hard to counsel people I love when I see them wander from truths in the Bible.

Paul also said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” I think that’s what he was talking about when he talked about proclaiming God’s entire message.

I’m still trying to figure out how to help others the way Paul did and to do what is right. And I’m not strong enough to always do what God wants.

Just a few sentences after he writes about proclaiming God’s entire message, Paul shares his source of strength to do what is right: “…depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

If I don’t read the Bible, I won’t understand what’s wrong in my life. Reading the Bible together is better yet. We can better figure out what God wants.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Writing with excellent pens can make a difference in someone’s life.

I love pens. (Jon loves pencils.) We both love writing by hand.

writing with a Schneider penThe very best ballpoint pens I have ever found are made by a German company called Schneider.

What do quality pens have to do with following Jesus? Good question…

Stride is the company that distributes Schneider pens in the USA. Stride employs people with intellectual and physical challenges – allowing these individuals to learn and grow in a working environment that is full of love and acceptance.

You can read the stories of Peter, Victor and Vaden to see what a difference Stride has made in each of their lives.

In Acts 20: 35, Paul said, “And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Interestingly, at Stride, those who are in need are working hard!)

Stride distributes pens and doesn’t sell them directly to consumers. But you can buy them at Office Depot or Office Max. Until May 9th, Schneider pens are on sale for 30% off. And here’s where the story gets interesting – Office Depot/Max is having this sale to test the market. If Schneider pens don’t sell well, they will stop selling them after the sale. So if you go out and buy some of these amazing pens, you will help Stride’s team.

If you prefer gel pens or porous-tip pens (what used to be called “felt-tip”), Schneider has those also. And they’re excellent.

Ask the Office Depot/Max sales staff to help you find them – the Schneider pens may be tucked away in a back corner.

And then go back home to write a real letter, by hand, to someone who could use a little extra love and acceptance.

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Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

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And this is Jon, stepping in on Paul’s post with a couple notes.

1. I went out an bought a Schneider pen because Paul said to. He’s right. They are great.

2. If you’ve thought about developing an online course, Online Course Maker is a good program. It was built out by Chris Brogan. I’ve worked through an early version of the course, and it’s much bigger since then. It’s only open until Tuesday, May 5. If you signup through my affiliate link, half of the price you pay will be sent to Nepal earthquake relief through Born2Fly and New Life Nepal.

Why He died

Sometimes when I think about Jesus dying on the cross, I get overwhelmed. What did I do to deserve that great sacrifice? Why could such a horrible thing happen to such a wonderful person?

For the last two years, my family and I have been part of an Anglican church. We remember Jesus’ death on the cross every Sunday by sharing communion, a symbolic meal of bread and wine. Some Sundays I am really moved by remembering Jesus’ sacrifice – even to the point of tears. Other Sundays, I can’t seem to connect. (We all have cycles of distraction and focus.)

The account of Jesus’ death and coming back to life is so important that it’s in four books of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each telling highlights some of the ways Jesus suffered: people mocked him, they gave him sour wine when Jesus said he was thirsty, and the soldiers gambled to win his clothes. Also, crucifixion was an extremely brutal way to die. (Today, the states that support capital punishment try to end a criminal’s life in as short a time span as possible. Not then – it took hours.)

One part of Jesus’ death that brings me back to the whole reason for His taking such abuse and torture is what Jesus said while he was hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus lived and died so that I can be forgiven. No matter what I did or will do, Jesus sacrificed so I can be whole, restored and complete. Jesus has the power to cover all the wrongs I do. A criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus appealed to him, and Jesus readily accepted him.

May we ask him too. He wants to hear us.

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Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Burning hearts

While I’m traveling, I asked some friends to answer a question: What’s the story related to Jesus that is most compelling for you? Today’s post is from Paul Merrill.

It was just three days after Jesus had been killed. Two of his followers went for a walk to be with other followers. They were passionately discussing all the earth-shaking events surrounding the loss of their friend and leader. (This story is in Luke 24.)

Suddenly, a guy started walking along with them. He didn’t seem to know what all the fuss was about. And they didn’t recognize him, so they explained the events surrounding Jesus’ death.

They talked together for a long time. It’s comforting to me that though they didn’t know the Scriptures about what was going to happen to Jesus, He was patient enough to explain it to them. He talked in a way they understood. Yet he did not use soft words to ease them into the truth – as usual, he talked without any candy coating: “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.”

I love that. They had a hard time believing the Scriptures! I don’t always believe. I need Jesus to explain things to me.

I’m not sure why God kept Jesus’ identity from them for a while. Maybe it’s a picture of how God sometimes reveals Himself to us slowly. We want to see all of God now, but God knows that’s not what we need.

I love how they finally recognized who Jesus is when He broke bread. Eating together was such an important part of their relationship that they knew how He broke bread. That’s a good reminder to me that I need to spend a lot more time with friends breaking bread together. And talking.

“Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” I love that burn.

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Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Like a kid

Miguel lives more than a day’s drive away. We don’t get to see each other very often. We’re good friends from way back. So we try to catch up every once in a while via Skype.

About six months ago, life wasn’t treating him very well. Business was down and it was really discouraging. I said I’d pray – you know, like friends do. But to make it happen, I put a daily reminder in my phone. Every day at 11 am, I get a little reminder that says, “Pray for Miguel.” So I did.

Some days, I’d pray for a minute. Some days, for a few seconds. Some days, I’d think, “Oh yeah,” and continue doing whatever it was I was wrapped up in.

We checked back in a few weeks ago, and Miguel’s mood and business were both better.

After we finished our call, I remembered Jesus saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I was asking God to help Miguel, like a kid would. I had less faith than a kid – I knew that such things are big and difficult, but I also knew that God is bigger than Miguel’s problems – and my problems.

A few days later, I remembered that God had answered several other recent prayers. A buddy in North Carolina got a job really quick, after he asked for prayers. (I said I’d pray, so I checked back to see how things were – that’s when I found out.) We got a renter for our basement apartment, after another one fell through. Friends in their 50s bought a house for the first time. I didn’t pray about that one, though I knew they were praying.

Prayer is not a magic bullet. God doesn’t always fix every problem we bring to Him.

My grandmother prayed for her alcoholic son till the day he died. She wore out her knees, praying so much. For almost 20 years, I’ve been praying for a situation that hasn’t changed. Yet.

I don’t know why God answer some prayers so clearly and others not. Either way should drive me to trust Him.

Like a kid.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.