One

Written by cycleguy on December 18th, 2014

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” So sang Three Dog Night in the late 60s. They were, of course, talking about love lost.

Back in the 60s and early 70s a movement swept across the landscape of our country which changed things drastically. As prominent as it was, it is the not the VietNam/anti-war movement I am referring to. This one had a different focus.

It changed the religious landscape. It was called the Jesus Movement. You could recognize it by many things-dress, music and signs. One of the most iconic was the index finger raised in the #1 position indicating “One Way.” That One Way was Jesus.

Jesus made a unique claim in John 14:6: “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Controversial then. Controversial now. People resent it as much today as they did back then.  It seems even more nowadays due to our pluralistic society which says, “All roads lead to God.”

There are several verses which say the same thing only in different words: Acts 4:12;  John 3:36;  I Timothy 2:5; and I John 5:11-12. Jesus is the One and only way to the Father. There are many reasons why this claim is made by Jesus. One claim stands out…the Virgin Birth. That one belief is the essential thread in His claim.

I will be speaking on “One” this Sunday. As you might guess, there will be a segment where I will spend time on the Virgin Birth. I do believe belief in the VB is absolutely essential for one who wants to be a follower of Jesus. To deny that is to deny His deity, His uniqueness, the thing which sets Him apart from all others.

Thanks for your prayers. It is not an easy subject to speak about.

 

Expectation

Written by cycleguy on December 17th, 2014

Christmas is a season of expectation.

“Twas the night before Christmas…” is one of them.

“I’m so excited Johnny is coming home from college I can hardly stand it.”

“This is going to be something special. Ever since my son/brother/(whoever) moved across the country, I haven’t seen them. But they are coming back for Christmas.”

Not those kinds of expectations.

My recent post triggered some great comments from people, people whom I daresay understand the whole “holiday blues” far better than I do. I’ve asked my friend, Melanie, if I may use her comment as a “jumping off” point. Here is her comment:

This is such an important topic. I would love to hear a sermon on it, but never have. Our expectations are such a big part of the problem. I have kept hoping for an idyllic Christmas when that makes no sense. The second problem is memory. I remember holidays like most people do–they’re seared into my memory. I think we can fix this by recognizing that amidst any negative memories were some positives. We just ignored them. We can also stop believing that the best Christmases are behind us. Finally, we can be proactive in creating a meaningful Christmas despite the imperfections. We can invite someone new over as you suggest. We can travel. We can arrange to spend time with those who don’t tear us down. I have felt like I *have* to see certain people, but I don’t. The truth is, every single day is Christmas–God with us. That means it will be ok!

This is such spot on advice (you’d think she was a counselor). Oops she was. :) Now her website is psychowith6. Take a moment to digest Melanie’s advice. So practical! Down-to-earth.

I’m not trying to run this into the ground. I just feel we need to know how to help ourselves and others. I hope Melanie’s “advice” can help you with reaching out to others or as the saying goes, “Physician, heal thyself.”

Did Melanie’s words help you see more clearly?

 

Empathy

Written by cycleguy on December 16th, 2014

This is a post which is not easy to write. Not because I don’t have anything to say (as if…). But more because I don’t want to say anything which may add to the tone of why I am writing this post.

As a pastor I see a lot of hurting people. My office. Sunday worship. Restaurants. Meetings. You get my drift. Ironically, Christmas is one of the most devastating times for hurting people.

Lost love.

Death of a marriage.

Death of a loved one (and possibly the first Christmas without them).

Tight finances.

Poor physical condition which makes celebrating hard.

Holiday depression.

The reasons for the hurt vary. And I am certainly not one who will make light of that hurt. I went through the “first Christmas syndrome” with both my own mother and my in-laws. Some take it harder than others. Because I am a man (Strike 1); knew where they were now (Strike 2); and had my family around for Christmas (Strike 3); I sort of “glided through” the holidays. I was never an emotional wreck during the holidays because of those three “strikes” against me. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the hurt.

But, I’m also not naive. I know there are people who suffer much more deeply than I did.  Years have passed for many and they still cannot stand the holidays. I’ve had this post rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks now, but there are two who actually, not only beat me to the punch, but say it much better than I do. A new blogging friend, Deb, wrote an excellent blog about questions asked during this season.  My friend, Kari, who is in the process of writing a book on depression, has been writing a series of posts dealing with “holiday depression” and how to deal with it. It starts with this one and follows with three more. They give an excellent perspective on facing the holidays.

Here is my summary: everyone faces the holidays in a different way. Some enjoy and celebrate. Some are devastated. Some cover. Be aware of those around you. Keep your eyes open to what people say and how they react. Watch your words carefully, especially if you know someone is hurting. Give a listen. Give a shoulder. Give some face-time if needed. Sometimes all that is needed is for that person to know they are not alone. How about inviting someone who is alone to your Christmas get together? No one should spend the holiday by themselves.

Here is a song (albeit not a “Christian” song) which talks about the hurt the holidays bring. Click on Show More if you need help with the lyrics.

 

Interruption

Written by cycleguy on December 15th, 2014

thefi5thgospel

 “We interrupt this program to bring you a special bulletin!”

I know how I used to respond to that….so don’t be throwing something at your monitor/laptop/phone/iPad.

I’m interrupting my posting about Christmas to ask a favor. And no, I’m not asking you to send me money…although…  :)

Here it is: I just recently finished reading The Fi5th Gospel by Bobby Conway. When I mentioned to some people what I was reading they raised their eyebrows like…say what? But if you look closely it is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and You. Aptly titled I may add. I think it is a foregone conclusion that many followers of Christ live a life of dichotomy- they say one thing but live another. Most people never read the first four Gospels, but the one they do read is right in front of them. It is Me. It is You.

I am asking now just in case you may be walking away from blogging during the Christmas break; to give you some time to think about my proposition; or to gather the money to buy it.

After the first of the year, I plan to do a weekly series of blogs about The Fi5th Gospel. There is no way I can cover all the good stuff in this book so I wondered if any of you might like to join in with me. My plan is to start January 14th (since I post in the evenings I will actually post at 8:00 on January 13th). Please let me know.

Let me know if you would like to join in on the fun. :) Meanwhile, answer this: how important is it to you for life and words to match?

 

 

 

Goal

Written by cycleguy on December 14th, 2014

I met a goal this past Saturday. Every year I set a goal for miles I would like to ride on my bike. My goal this year was 2500. That was a lofty goal considering I had no clue we were going to have the winter from you-know-where. Snow. Ice. Cold. Knee surgery. So riding really didn’t start until sometime in March, and then had to start slowly due to the knee surgery. Riding slows down drastically in November and December due to the weather so I was happy to finally reach my goal.

I don’t always set goals. I have an aversion to considering numbers are an indication of success or not, especially in a church setting. Don’t get me wrong: I like it when the numbers go up. But when someone uses numbers against you and as a way to either have you dismissed or push for it, the use of numbers as a “success line” diminishes. But there are those who use numbers as a way to validate what they are doing or validate themselves as a person.

It is true I set a goal for cycling. It sort of motivated me to ride longer than I have in awhile. I also know numbers can motivate some to push forward. But I guess what will always be in my head is motive, motive, motive.

My goal this Christmas season has been to slow down and focus on others. i want to especially remind myself to enjoy the Christmas season and the ONE who gives the meaning to the season. I hope you will join me. Maybe this song can be a good reminder for you.

What are you doing to make this season more memorable for you?

 

Light

Written by cycleguy on December 11th, 2014

First, enjoy this show!

Then enjoy this one.

Several years ago there was a commercial with the tag line “This ain’t your father’s Oldsmobile.”  I think it is safe to say, “This is not your father’s Christmas lights.”

Seems as though lights play a big part in many Christmas homes. In spite of the energy crunch, many will light up their homes for the few weeks leading up to and shortly after Christmas. As a kid I can remember having lights in the windows and on the tree outside and inside, but one of the things we looked forward to was driving around and looking at the lights. I hate to sound all sentimental about it, but there was something magical about a house illuminated by lights. Granted, the two examples I showed takes it to a whole ‘nother level! :)

LIGHT ALWAYS DEFEATS DARKNESS!

During the month of December, my approach toward the Christmas story is taking some of the I AM statements Jesus makes and showing how they can give new meaning to an old story. Bet you can’t guess which I AM I will be using this Sunday!!!  ;) I’d like to give you something to consider this weekend in your own life:

To the darkness of falsehood He is the light of truth; the darkness of ignorance He is the light of wisdom;to the darkness of sin He is the light of holiness; to the darkness of sorrow He is the light of joy; and to the darkness of death He is the light of life.  (MacArthur Commentary-p.334)

I repeat: Light always defeats darkness. Jesus is “the Light of the World.” He came into a world darkened and blackened by sin. His remedy was Light…Himself. And now for a more serious side to this post.

Shine His light during this season! Thanks for your prayers.

 

Heartbreak

Written by cycleguy on December 10th, 2014

I’m going to let you know right up front: there is no answer to what I am going to post, wonder about or ask. How’s that for a warning? :)

As a pastor of a church, we get a lot of requests for help…none more than at Christmas time. I’m going to be totally honest here: it is uber tough saying, “I’m really sorry but we aren’t able to help.” I’ll give you just three scenarios we have been hit with just this week.

Scenario #1: Someone calls the church secretary’s private cell phone saying, “I got your number from you at the Thanksgiving dinner your church sponsored” then begins to tell a story of a father who had heart surgery and 4 boys who will not have a Christmas. First flag: the secretary was not at the dinner. Second flag: we do not know the person calling nor has she given us the name of the family needing help.

Scenario #2: A mom calls requesting help. First words were “we are new to Spencer and are looking for a church home. We were wondering if there would be any help for our kids for Christmas.” First flag: that first line. Second flag: the second line following the first one. The back story does seem to make this legitimate. 

Scenario #3: A man who is a friend of some folks in the church has been hit hard with the death of his wife (died of cancer in the past year) and then his sister and brother-in-law just recently (no insurance to cover burial expenses). We have been asked to help in any way (probably with a gift card to a grocery store).

All sound legitimate. And perhaps they all are. I may have sent up some flags but that does not negate the very possible need. What does the church do? Let me give you a bit more information. Since October we have filled over 100 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes (20 more than last year). Helped with filling backpacks for Liberian pastors and their families, teachers, and others. And recently helped the New Beginnings Pregnancy Resource Center with their Tree of Love (gifts for children and parents).

Now these requests. I truly have mixed emotions. I have seen/we have been victims of abuse of the system. People who make the rounds and do rather well. But I also don’t want to allow that abuse to cloud a legitimate need to help. The church is often accused of being cold and heartless and not caring about others. I don’t want OVCF to be seen as one of them.

Remember at the beginning I said there is no easy answer? There is also no easy answer to this question: what would you do if you were in my shoes?

 

Reason

Written by cycleguy on December 9th, 2014

This is not a post about “reason” in the sense of philosophically looking at things. I fall way short in that area. :)

This is about something else. I know what I am going to say may cause some to be hurt because they can think I am taking potshots at them. Please don’t take it that way. I know what you are saying. I really do. And what I am going to say is purely my opinion.

MY OPINION.  I know you didn’t ask for it, but….  :)

So…here it is. I wish many things would change about Christmas, but there is one saying I wish we could somehow get a grip on.

JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

I know this makes me a heretic in some eyes, but…I just don’t care for that saying. I know why people say it and use it. And I appreciate their sincerity.

But I don’t think it is correct.  Say what?

“Bill, don’t you know it is putting the emphasis on Jesus this Christmas season?”

Well, I know that is its intent. And it does in its own way. But that doesn’t make it correct.

Because you see He is not the reason for the season. WE ARE.

Jesus did not come to earth for Himself. He didn’t come to earth so He could make a big splash and change the world.

HE CAME TO THE EARTH BECAUSE OF ME AND YOU. We are the reason He came. He came because of sin, something He had no experience in. Our sin. it definitely wasn’t His which led Him to come down.

Without beating a dead horse, I like to say it a different way:

WE ARE THE REASON; HE GIVES THE MEANING.

I’d like to hear your thoughts. No matter whether you agree or disagree. One more thing: this is not a battle I choose to fight either. I say nothing when someone greets me because I know they are just being kind.

 

GoFigure

Written by cycleguy on December 8th, 2014

We hear a lot these days about “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” I even read an article about two weeks ago about some organization which claims to have made a difference in some of the bigger retail stores because or their “boycott” after the retailer’s caving into the non-religious-greeting people. While they were at it, they were also calling for a “boycott” of several newer retailers.

Do you, like me, get tired of reading about this sort of thing? I know I may in the minority, but come on people! Do you really think an organization calling out Target or WM or Home Depot is really that effective? Or Christ-honoring? Why not simply say, “Merry Christmas” when someone tells you “Happy Holidays” because they are forced to?

My friend, David Rupert, has written a fantastic blog post about this conundrum called “Merry Happy Something or Other.” I like to read tongue-in-cheek stuff and David does a masterful job. I’d encourage you to check it out here.  Was that not a fun read?

What are your thoughts? Do you really give credence to the whole greeting snafu? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

 

Song

Written by cycleguy on December 7th, 2014

I’ve had a crazy, busy weekend. One of those you see your back as you run into yourself (you know as you are coming and going). It isn’t over yet either. So, I will not lie. I am taking the easy way out for this post.

This past weekend I found this song on two different blogs I read. I love Christmas…a lot. Not because of the gifts, but because it is a celebratory time of the year. In all ways. This song here sort of sums it up.

But that is not the song  I am speaking about hearing for the first time. Thanks to Jason and Glynn’s blogs, I heard this song. I know nothing about this band, except what Glynn says. But WOW what a song!

This is what it is all about! Enjoy!!!

So, let me borrow Jason’s question: what is your “go to” Christmas song these days? Who knows? I might hear another one I like.

And yes, Floyd, that first one was for you. :)