Deathbed

Written by cycleguy on September 29th, 2016

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The church was desperate. Years of decline has taken a painful toll. “What we need, ” they said, “is a dynamic new pastor.”

A blue-ribbon search team did everything right to find the perfect leader. Young but experienced, serious but witty, articulate but not intimidating, spiritual but worldly-wise. Now it was time for him to preach the congregation.

When he addressed the congregation, he gave an inspiring description of his qualifications, experience, vision, and plans. His final line summer up his stirring presentation: “With God’s help, I intend to lead this church forward into the 20th century!”

Surprised and a bit embarrassed by his apparent mistake, the chairman of the search team whispered loudly, “You mean the 21st century!”

To which the candidate replied, “We’re going to take this one century at a time!”

OUCH! That’s gotta hurt.

The church at Sardis was on its deathbed. Like many in a similar boat, its best days were behind it. To be honest everything looked good. The reputation was good. They had a name of being alive, but they were dead. They were finding out in this letter they could not fool the ONE who really mattered and saw right through them.

This letter is their last chance. He is offering them an opportunity for a deathbed confession. I hope and pray OVCF never gets to that place. If it does, and I’m still with them, shoot me. (Not really but it would be how I feel with this kind of news). I will be bringing all this and more to the table Sunday. I’d appreciate your prayers. Thanks.

 

BeingThere

Written by cycleguy on September 27th, 2016

One of my favorite quotes by Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary to the Auca Indians, is “Wherever you are be all there.” Lately I have had trouble being here. Shoot, I’ve had trouble being anywhere. It seems like I’ve been going a thousand different directions lately. Then I read this:

“When George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously answered, ‘Because it is there.’ But in a personal letter to his wife, Ruth, he revealed even more about what drove him to climb the mountain. ‘Dearest,’ he wrote, ‘…you must know that the spur to do my best is you and you again…I want more than anything to prove worthy of you.’ George left a meaningful legacy that proved worthy of history’s remembrance. But George’s son John wrote something that has challenged me. Proud of his father but sad too, John wrote, ‘I would so much rather have known my father than to have grown up in the shadow of a legend, a hero, as some people perceive him to be.'” (The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine-p.78)

I’ve noticed (as I’m sure you have also) life goes in seasons. Busy. Not busy. Crazy busy. Not so busy. Steady. Lull. You get the point. Today is one of those crazy busy seasons. My mind has wandered. I stopped and got both Jo and me a Polar Pop (yeah I know it isn’t good for me) and almost made it to the office before I remembered I had her pop. Sheesh!

So this small section out of this excellent book stopped me dead in my tracks. As Tim Hawkins says in his video, “I need to be centered.” Watch him. He is a hoot.

I’m preaching to myself here. Maybe you too?

 

GraceEffect

Written by cycleguy on September 25th, 2016

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Several weeks ago I published a review of the book “Hitch” by Larry Alex Taunton. In that book he mentioned an encounter between Hitch and his internationally adopted (Ukraine) daughter, Sasha. After reading of that friendly encounter and Hitch’s reaction to her, I thought I wanted to read the book based on the adoption. The name of that book is The Grace Effect and this is my review.

I know several families who have adopted internationally. Several of you have done so. My brother has. Several from the church have. An acquaintance from the Y has just adopted 5 siblings from Bulgaria. (UGH!) Larry’s wife and their three sons all wanted to adopt Sasha after a mission trip where they fell in love with her. Until the point of adoption Larry had never met her. He was on board with it though and once he saw her there was never any doubt. Little did they know the hoops they would have to jump through to make it happen. Ukraine is a country from the old Soviet Union. It may say “Free” but old habits die hard. I cannot even begin to write down all they were put through-emotionally, physically, financially (and every other “ly”) in the year it took them to adopt her while in Ukraine! 

It was an emotional roller-coaster for them. I have to admit it was for me as well just reading the book! This was far more than just reading a book about the horrors of international adoption. It was also a book about the false promises of socialism; the emptiness of communism; the soul-destroying influence of unbelief; and, in short, what the atheistic worldview would give us without Christianity-something cold, pitiless, and graceless.

I’m glad I read this book even though I really had no idea what to expect. It was eye-opening on so many fronts. I’d suggest you find this book and read it also. You will thank me for suggesting it.

 

Cancer

Written by cycleguy on September 22nd, 2016

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For anyone who knows me and may be reading this:

I. DO. NOT. HAVE. CANCER.

Well…at least I don’t think so. The medical procedure I had Tuesday told the doctor (so he thinks) that I do not have cancer in a certain area of my body. However, that is the thing about cancer:

YOU NEVER KNOW IF YOU HAVE IT OR NOT. Not really. You can have tests if you want, but most people don’t know they have it until after they exhibit some signs somehow.

A routine breast examination reveals a lump that takes your breath away.

A prostate exam reveals some irregularities which need to be addressed and it comes back positive.

A shortening of breath leads a 71 year old woman to the doctor where she is detected with a rare form of lung cancer that takes her to Jesus in less than 6 months. (My mom)

After being cancer-free for 15 years, you find out with shock it has returned with a vengeance and you fight it as hard as you can only to watch life slowly slip away. (My grandmother)

In many cases it is a shock to find out cancer is there. The church at Thyatira was like that. Despite all the good it was doing, there is a cancer invading its soul. This cancer is ripping the church apart and they don’t even know it!

Many churches look good and healthy on the outside. It is on the inside it is slowly disintegrating. Prayers for Sunday would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

 

SpringKeeper

Written by cycleguy on September 18th, 2016

My next couple of days will be filled with various meetings plus a visit to the friendly, neighborhood hospital for a procedure on Tuesday so I thought I would give you a general post to consider. I used this illustration Sunday to close my message on Compromise.

The old gentle man had been hired many years earlier by a young town  council to clear away the debris from the pools of water that fed the  lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent  regularity he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and  wiped away the silt from the fresh flow of water. By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated  along the crystal clear spring, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and  the view from restaurants was picturesque.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semiannual  meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary  figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of  the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year?  For all we know he is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer!”  By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.

For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools,  hindering the rushing flow of water. One afternoon someone noticed a  slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple days later the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of  the water along the banks and a foul odor was detected. The millwheels  moved slower, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left as did the  tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Embarrassed, the council called a special meeting. Realizing their  gross error in judgment, they hired back the old keeper of the spring . . . and within a few weeks, the river began to clear up.

True? I can’t say. Fanciful though it may be, it still tells a great story. The application I leave up to you.

 

“C”

Written by cycleguy on September 15th, 2016

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Immediately when a person sees the “C” word almost invariably Cancer runs through the mind.

In this case…NO. Least not that I know of.

The Trojan Horse is a Greek legend, A huge, hollow, wooden horse was made to gain entrance to the city of Troy, thus ending the Trojan War. Unable to capture the city after a siege of ten years, the Greeks resorted to a different strategy. They sailed away and left the horse, filled with armed warriors, on the shore. Sinon, a Greek spy, persuaded the Trojans to take the horse into the city, convincing them that to do so would mysteriously make Troy invulnerable. That night Sinon let out the Greek troops,; killing the guards, they opened the gates to the Greeks, and Troy was captured and burned.

The Trojans unwittingly allowed their enemy access to their city by trickery on the part of the Greeks.

The Trojans are no different than many who follow Christ. We allow the enemy access to our lives by his trickery. It is called

C.O.M.P.R.O.M.I.S.E.

The tough part about compromise is when the enemy is obvious we seem to be at our strongest. Hitler. ISIS. Pornography. Sex trafficking. But when we struggle with the “gentle slide” approach, it is a killer. The church at Pergamum was sliding away. Like many today. Sunday’s message continues the “7” series. I’d appreciate your prayers.

 

Brrrrrrr

Written by cycleguy on September 14th, 2016

Chilling.

Not the weather. Least not yet. 🙂 I, for one, am not looking forward to the colder weather. But I know it is going to happen. Just not yet…please!

I’ve been writing this week about the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in when it comes to our children. And even last week. I guess I’m like a lot of people: something gets under my skin and I can’t stop scratching it. I finished Make It Zero last night (Tuesday) and have been wanting to write this post all day but time has not been a commodity for me. I have a few minutes before my Wednesday night 66 class so I thought I would give you some statistics that have me chilled to the bone.

70% of all sex trafficking victims were former foster children.

More than 100,000 children are currently trafficked for sex in the United States.

In 2014, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline received reports of 3,598 sex trafficking cases inside the United States.

The average age of a child when they first are used in prostitution is twelve to fourteen years old.

Do those chill your bones? They should. I can’t get the children out of my mind. Sorry for the preoccupation I seem to have. No…I’m not sorry. I sense outrage. I sense sorrow. I sense something needs to be done. But what?

What can I do? What can one person do? Not a whole lot. But it is a start. What can you do?

My daughter sent me a link to this upcoming movie. I am trying to get it here at our local theater. Check out the trailer.

 

Safe

Written by cycleguy on September 12th, 2016

After last week’s session with our local judge on sex trafficking, I decided to continue reading a book I started several months ago and laid aside (and I’m not sure why).  The book is called Make it Zero by Mary Frances Bowley. It is divided into 5 sections:

Zero Poverty

Zero Hunger

Zero Isolation

Zero Abuse

Zero Trafficking

I started the Zero Abuse chapter last night and it began with the following quote:

Darkness cannot drive out the darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here are some chilling statistics that come from the book:

A report of child abuse is made ever ten seconds.

The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations-losing an average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.

Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children.

There are more chilling stats to add but that is enough.

The overreaching question is this: where is the love a parent is supposed to have for their child? Obviously missing for many.

My heart bleeds for little children-the innocent victims of a broken society. It still comes down to Dr. King’s statement. It starts with each one of us being the light, sharing our love. And ultimately, us pointing people to the ONE who said, “I am the light of the world.”

 

 

TheWeek

Written by cycleguy on September 11th, 2016

Sunday I used this illustration. You may have heard it before:

Once upon a time there were twin brothers. One optimistic. One pessimistic. For the sake of understanding their differences, their mother enlisted the help of a noted psychologist.

The psychologist instructed her to put the pessimist in a room filled with various sizes and shapes of wrapped presents. The optimistic child was to be placed in a room filled with manure.

With this task done, the mother and psychologist visited the children to gauge each one’s response to his circumstances. They found the pessimistic child sitting among his presents, gazing at them in complete disbelief. When asked why he had not opened any, he simply stated, “They couldn’t possibly be for me!”

Moving on to the next child, they were a bit concerned to see no sign of him in the manure-filled room. They called for him, and his head emerged from one of the piles. When asked what he was doing, he answered, “With this much mess, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Fanciful. Probably not true. But telling. You/I have a brand new week ahead of us. We can choose to make it a bummer of a week or we can choose to make it a week of good things.

Choose wisely.

 

Perseverance

Written by cycleguy on September 8th, 2016

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“Dance with the one that brung ya'”

“You don’t change horses in midstream”

“You play the game and stay with your strength”

“You stick with what got you here in the first place”

Persevering under duress takes just this kind of attitude. A “stick-to-it-tiveness.” The church at Smyrna knew what it was like to suffer. And by the words Jesus had John write they were also examples of what it meant to persevere.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed just days before Hitler committed suicide and the Nazi party was overthrown for his alleged plot in an assassination attempt upon Hitler’s life. He was a Lutheran pastor who was ordered hanged by Heinrich Himmler. In his book The Cost of Discipleship he wrote:

Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering of Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.

Suffering is part and parcel of being a follower of Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33 (HCSB) The life of the follower of Christ is not a rose garden…except for the thorns.

The church at Smyrna is my “7” subject this week. I’d appreciate your prayers.