Fear

Written by cycleguy on February 11th, 2016

 

itiswritten

We all have fears. Some are real. Some are irrational. When they become irrational we call them phobias. For what is called the “ultimate list of phobias” check this out. There is some really wild and crazy phobias.

But most people don’t have phobias. They just feel the icy grip of fear from time to time. Fear is no respecter of persons. Age. Color. Status in life. What can be agreed upon though is that fear often paralyzes people.

When we meet Gideon he is wrapped in the cloak of fear. Judges 6:11 tells us that. Why? Because his country is overrun by Midianites. They would wait until harvest and then swoop down and take all the food from the hard work the Israelites had put into plowing, planting and taking care of the crop. We find Gideon hiding in fear beating out some grain by hand.

But God calls him to deliver his people. He had to overcome his fear of the Midianites. But first, he even had to overcome the fear of his countrymen. He had to overcome his discouragement and his sense of inadequacy. What really changed his attitude was not new scenery; it was God’s presence. I’m not minimizing legitimate fear, but I do believe many people are wracked with fear because they forget WHOSE they are. I know that is simplistic but it has to be for the scope of this blog. But do give it some thought.

I mentioned in last week’s post that I plan to post the weekend’s sermon earlier on Thursday since weekends are dead. PLUS it gives me a chance to ask you for prayer. Thanks for praying for me.

 

Lent

Written by cycleguy on February 9th, 2016

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the day our calendar calls Ash Wednesday.  It begins the season called Lent and will end on Easter Sunday.

Confession: I never heard of either of these growing up. That’s right. I grew up in a church tradition where Ashes and Lent were not mentioned. In fact, I can remember sitting in a high school class one day and one of my teachers had this black spot between his eyes on his forehead. I almost said something to him about having dirt on his forehead. Even though I grew up in a largely Catholic/Orthodox-dominated area, I had no clue.

Even as a pastor I really had no clue because it was not part of our church life. As time went on I heard about it, but there was still no understanding or (dare I say it?) caring about it. It still wasn’t even on the back burner. That should tell you how important it was to me or how it crossed my mind (it didn’t).

Then one day after we moved here, I was talking to some folks about sacrifice. It was around the time of Lent so the tie was made. So was the challenge. We challenged each other…sort of almost as a game…to give up something for 40 days. In fact, I even issued a challenge to the church. Some gave up warm beer (not too sure about cold). Some gave up smoking. I gave up caffeine…mainly Diet Dr Pepper.

This year I have issued myself a challenge…partly for health/weight reasons and partly because I want to see if I can do it. I have committed to giving up ALL pop for the 40 days. I even went a step further and have given up chips and any other salty snacks of no nutritional value. (Pistachios are allowed). We shall see.

What about you? Have you decided to give up something? As a side: I thought about giving up chocolate but I tell people I can’t sacrifice that much. :)  If you care to read, here is an article on the Top 20 things people say we ought to give up for Lent.

I will gladly give up social media. Oh yeah…I’m not on it. :)

 

#Compassion

Written by cycleguy on February 7th, 2016

I’ve been reading #Struggles by Craig Groeschel and in a chapter on Compassion he includes this quote:

Compassion is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.  Frederick Buechner

In all honesty, I’m not sure how I feel about that quote. I see the value of it. And yet…I wonder if the scenario he suggests says I will never arrive at having my compassion satisfied.

The nature of my job exposes me to people all the time who either “play the system” or just have trouble finding the “key” to what they are missing. If I help people does that guarantee they will come to a place of peace and joy? The obvious answer is no. But compassion is what drew me to try to help.

#easytobehard. Three Dog Night sang a song back in the late 60s/early 70s by that title. It is easy to be hard. It is also easy to be cold. I find that true especially with those who keep coming back for more when they have done nothing to better their situation or themselves along the way. #easytobecynical.

But compassion is something we all need. I pray I never grow so cold or hard or cynical that I stop seeing people who are hurting. “Forgive me, Father, when I close my eyes to the ones who need to experience a touch of Your hand on their life. I may be the only one to do that. Give me compassion for the lost and hurting soul.”

 

 

Squandered Resources

Written by cycleguy on February 4th, 2016

 

itiswritten

This post is not about the environment or the government or any other “ment.”

I suspect most of us have heard stories like this somewhere along the line:

An old woman, known as “Garbage Mary,” lived in a small town in Florida. Every day she would be seen dressed in her rags, walking the streets, scavenging through garbage cans for food, which she hoarded in her car or in her tiny two-room apartment. She was a recluse with no friends, and while she scrounged cigarettes and ice cubes from anyone available, it was logical to assume she was an old woman losing her mind and on the verge of destitution.

She was picked up by police and confined in an institution. When some officials went to her apartment, they were amazed to find out there was money everywhere. Bank books, securities, oil-drilling rights, real estate documents, and cash, all which indicated she was worth more than 1 million dollars! They also indicated she was not an old woman but a 48 year old college graduate who had inherited a great deal of money when her father died in 1974.

Various reasons for her actions were given, but the tragedy remains that Garbage Mary is a story of squandered resources. She had “value” she didn’t even take advantage of.

In the OT there is a man who “lives” as one who squandered his resources. His name? Samson. And boy did he squander his resources!! Given the leadership of the people of Israel during the time of the judges, Samson had great potential. But he kept squandering it because he had a weakness. Chuck Swindoll called him “a he-man with a she-weakness.” That about sums it up.

This Sunday my sermon is on Samson. In keeping with the series theme of “Second Chance,” I am calling this “Second Chance after Falling.”

If you are like me, your weekends don’t give you much time to read or comment on blogs. I will read but very seldom comment. Because I believe people praying is so important, I have decided to move my weekend post to early Thursday instead of posting it late Thursday/early Friday. I hope it prompts you to pray for me and the church this weekend. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. Thanks ahead of time. 

 

Swallowing

Written by cycleguy on February 3rd, 2016

I’m having an affair.

Now…before you get your undies all in a bunch or gasp and say, “Not another one,” please hear me out. I have this love affair with food…certain kinds of food especially. One rhymes with pizza. The other rhymes with ice cream. I have slowed down on the pizza eating. Rumor has it my age has something to do with that. :) I can remember in day’s long past when I ate pizza every day for a week. I can also remember when I would eat a whole large pizza at a Pizza Hut buffet. Yeah…those days are l-o-o-o-o-ng gone. Ice cream is a different story. My philosophy is “there’s always room for ice cream.” I confess to liking at least a small bowl in the evening (emphasis on “small”).

I also get up around 3:15 each morning and ride my bike indoors for at least 45 minutes in order to enjoy that bowl of ice cream. I suspect it is really not doing me much good, but try to convince my taste buds that!

They say “you are what you eat.” Well then I’m a ice cream-loving-Italian and don’t regret it. Except, of course, when I don’t ride and step on a scale or a doctor tells me like one did several years ago: “your cholesterol is high and you need meds.” When I said, “No” he said, “Okay then. Lose 15 pounds and lower your cholesterol.”

I was what I ate alright. I immediately changed my eating habits.

I am what I eat spiritually as well. So are you. Feed ourselves “light junk” and we will be a lightweight. Feed ourselves “heavy junk” and we will find ourselves out of touch. I go back to this quote from the previous post:

Faith is to the soul what swallowing is to the body-and the health of the body is largely dependent on what is swallowed.  “Moorings in a World Adrift” by Clayton Bell-p.3

I don’t eat pizza and ice cream like I used to. Least not the quantities. (I do still like my chocolate). My 63 year old body can’t absorb what it used to. So I had to change my eating habits.

My reading and study habits have also changed over time. I want my faith to be firm, vibrant and alive. I need to feed that desire. What about you?

 

 

Observations

Written by cycleguy on February 1st, 2016

I wanted to post this Sunday night like I normally do but thought better of it. Sometimes judgments/decisions/observations are often made too quickly. I’ve seen people (but never me…aaaah yeah) make hasty decisions/judgments based on the heat of the moment and have it turn out all wrong. Whether it is euphoria from a “mountain top high” or a hasty or ill-advised decision while in the valley or when despondent, neither is good.  Several things happened over the weekend-some of which I asked prayer for-and I thought I would write about them.

The highlight of my weekend had to be Saturday. My young bride of almost 43 years turned into her official “I’m retired and I can collect Social Security” self. Some of her favorite people surprised her at HuHot Mongolian Grill. You read that right…Mongolian Grill. This from the woman who can’t stand to eat Chinese. I ask that age old question: who can understand a woman? :)  The main ones missing were our family in Ohio. But we had a good time.

If you read this post from last week, you read about our “chance” encounter with a young man and his family. I had the honor of welcoming them to our worship Sunday (not publicly) for the first time, and then had the privilege of taking them to lunch with Ryan (techgeek) and my oldest, Tami. Jo flew the coop for the afternoon. We had a wonderful lunch at Chicago’s Pizza and even better conversation. A good thing: I am having lunch with their pastor Tuesday. He is a dear friend and I certainly don’t want to lose his friendship because we didn’t talk.

I asked prayer for a local church which is blowing apart in this post. There were about 11 people from that church visiting with us Sunday. I refuse to be a sheep-stealer so my philosophy will be to give it time and see what happens. Meanwhile, I have told a couple they are more than welcome to worship with us, get their bearings, some much-needed healing, and then decide what they want to do. You might want to include Church X in your daily prayers. I would also ask for prayers to handle the whole thing wisely.

I’m working on a sermon series which will take all of March and April. I started on it Monday. I read a quote I want to leave with you…and I plan to discuss it in another post (very soon). Here is the quote:

Faith is to the soul what swallowing is to the body-and the health of the body is largely dependent on what is swallowed.

Thanks for hanging in there with such a “wordy” post (long past my norm). Have a good day.

 

Failure

Written by cycleguy on January 28th, 2016

 

itiswritten

I seriously doubt, if we are honest, there isn’t a one of us who at one time or another hasn’t failed. If you are like me it is, “Seriously? Again?” If there is one thing we all have in common it isn’t hair, heights, teeth, clothing, or anything tangible.

All of us have failed at something. A job. A business. A marriage. A career. A sport. The list seems endless doesn’t it?

Pick a person in the Bible who represents failure and I suspect many will choose the one I will be speaking about this Sunday. Matthew 5. Luke 9. Matthew 16. Matthew 26. If you guessed those Scriptures were about Peter you would be right.

Epic fail. Colossal fail. Especially that last one. Talk about betrayal Judas comes to mind. Talk about denial/failure Peter comes to mind.

But talk restoration and he should also come to mind. That, after all, is what John 21 is all about. Three times Jesus asked him if he loved Him, with the last being an echo of Peter’s own answers to the first two. Three denials. Three questions. Life & ministry restored.

After all, there is a second chance after failure. Peter is an example. Thanks for your prayers Sunday.

********************************************

May I ask a special prayer from you this weekend? A local church has about blown apart. We are supposed to have some of the folks visiting Sunday. I don’t mind being a haven for people to get their hearts and minds together, but I am not interested in growing OVCF by “sheep stealing.” Please pray for a right attitude for me and the healing of a breach in the wall for the other church. Thanks.

 

Purging

Written by cycleguy on January 27th, 2016

Boy!  Talk about opening up a can of worms!! That word means so many things to so many different people.

To a dieter it means shedding weight.

To a person unhappy with their body image it can often mean anorexia or bulimia.

To someone into wholeness it means cleansing the body of impurities, usually through a colon cleanse or some bodily/health action.

To me…well it meant something else.  I did something I have been putting off for what seems like centuries. I purged many of my files. I went through many of my files (I still have many to do) and got rid of unwanted, unnecessary and un-roomed (translated: I needed the room in my file drawer) files which needed purged long time ago.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61tdpgruLeL._SL1300_.jpg

But I kept putting it off.  And off. And off. For something like two years. I had files from 10 years ago. I had files from meetings long forgotten. Minutes. Notes. From conferences I had attended. I didn’t do it indiscriminately. I looked at the material and thought, “I haven’t used this in ______ years. What makes me think I am suddenly going to switch gears and use it?”  Pitch.

Purge. Many of my files have been purged.

We do that with our lives also don’t we? Carry around garbage long past useful (if it ever was). Emotions. Hurt feelings. Betrayals. Stuff filed away. Why? To bring up hurts again? So I can remember that in 2000 something so-and-so hurt me deeply? For what point? IMHO long past time to be deleted. Purged from the memory bank. It’s over and done with.

So…along with purging some of your files of paper, why not purge some of that other garbage? You know…the stuff which doesn’t amount to a hill of beans anymore. The junk you have allowed to define who you are.

My file drawers are sure leaner. I can put some fresh stuff in them without overflowing them. Maybe it is time to do the same with your “life file.”

 

Coincidence?

Written by cycleguy on January 25th, 2016

Coincidence? Luck? Chance? God’s timing.

I’d like to share an incident with you which took place Sunday afternoon. I am not looking for accolades by any stretch so please don’t give them. I would like you to see how God works.

Sunday afternoon after our worship, we made our way to the local “Y” for a baptism of one of our teens. Following that we were going to do a quick lunch at Wendy’s so Jo, Tami and I could make our way to a local winery. Sounds bad doesn’t it? :) Actually, one of our couples, who are involved in our local art guild, had some of their art work on display for the afternoon at the winery. We were going to support them (not imbibe…since we don’t at all). One of our lunch partner’s son requested Mexican instead so we went. Here is where it gets interesting.

As we were being seated I greeted some folks from the church and also a man from the table next to them. Next thing I knew this man was introducing me to his son, who asked if he could speak to me for a few moments. “Sure,” I said, and we sat down. Even before he started talking he teared up and for a few minutes could not speak. Finally he able to control himself enough to say, “I want to say thanks for your podcasts. They have been a lifesaver to me. I have been listening to them all week long. The one about “Its Who We Are” so hit me it was like God spoke directly to me.” (In a later email he told me he had his wife listen and she had the same reaction). I thanked him but then put my hand on Ryan’s shoulder (techgeek) and said, “This is the man who made all that possible. Each week he puts it on the website.”

The rest of the conversation lasted a long time and I don’t really need to put it here. Suffice it to say, I was bowled over in two ways: 1) by God’s timing. If we had chosen Wendy’s instead of El Ranchero I would have missed this meeting; and 2) By the impact of the media, even when I had no clue. I honestly have no idea if someone has listened to the podcast or not…unless they tell me. I don’t even know if there is a way Ryan can tell.

But this young man was told by his mother-in-law about our website. He/they found it, listened and are seeking God’s desire for their family.

All because we chose Mexican instead of Wendy’s. And all because God has a plan and perfect timing.

{Note: conversation edited for space and privacy}

 

Envy?

Written by cycleguy on January 24th, 2016

I just began reading Craig Groeschel’s newest book, #Struggles. If the rest of the book is like his first chapter, it will be a wealth of good stuff.

Many people (possibly most of us?) struggle with envy. We have this strong drive to compare. It starts early in life and for some, it never quits. In fact, for many it becomes a stronger emotion which drives them. I don’t have all the answers to the problem but Craig gives some good thoughts on handling this problem of comparison.

First take a look at this Scripture. Andy Stanley once said, “There is no win in comparisons.” If that is the case, how do we kill comparisons (or at least stop it from dominating our lives)?

  1. Understand envy is demonic. James tells us this. Where envy is, there is disorder. Where envy is, there is every evil practice. Envy isn’t just unhealthy. In God’s eyes, it’s downright sinful. I’ve noticed when I have allowed myself to get caught up in envy, it spreads like a wildfire. It sort of feeds off itself.
  2. Celebrate other people’s successes. Instead of clamoring for the same thing or wishing you could have what they have, celebrate with them. I like the phrase Craig used: “Suffocate the flames of envy with a blanket of gratitude.”
  3. Cultivate gratitude. Envy is resenting God’s goodness in another person’s life and ignoring His goodness in our own! Let’s focus on the good things God has given us!

Have a good (focused) week!