#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Written by cycleguy on October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

 

#Dead#Zombies

Written by cycleguy on October 11th, 2019

First, let me put you at ease. This is not a post about zombies. Not only do I think it is silly, but I have never watched even a moment of the TV show when it was on, nor will I while it is in reruns. As for New Death Experiences (NDEs) I have my own opinion which shall remain mine at this point. I have never been a horror movie fan so to talk about the macabre and living among the dead has never “yanked my chain.” I have enough trouble with reality. I don’t need people confusing the issue with other junk.

I have been a pastor long enough; I have been alive long enough, to know when death is either imminent or soon to take place. There are certain characteristics which manifest themselves. I suspect if we took the time to compare we would see some of the characteristics of death could be seen in some churches as well. There are all kinds of churches in various stages of “aliveness.” Some are vibrant; some are lukewarm; some are barely hanging on; and some are dead (but may not even know it).

This week’s postcard is written to the church at Sardis, the church I am calling the Dead Church. Revelation 3:1-6 gives us that letter and Jesus minces no words of judgment on them.  It is never easy hearing that you or your church may be dead.  I don’t want to sound harsh or judgmental but only kind and loving as I present the possibility that it could happen to us if we aren’t open to Christ’s leading. Please pray for me this weekend.

 

#DeedDone#I’mGone

Written by cycleguy on October 9th, 2019

Well…my medical event from yesterday is done and over with. Obviously, since I am here typing this. 🙂  All went well with the exception of him finding 3 small polyps which were removed. It is a regular thing for me so I’m glad I have a doctor who is vigilant. I am also aware of my body’s needs for care since members of my family have died or have had cancer.

I have some other things on the docket for the next couple of days. Today I’m celebrate my 67th birthday. I am grateful God has given me these years and simply pray that whatever time I have left it is lived for Him.

But what is even more exciting (I mean how excited can someone get at my age for another birthday?) is we will be leaving today to celebrate my birthday with Janna, Jason and Braden and to watch him play football tomorrow night. We have tried as he has grown up to be as present as we can at his games. This year was just not one of those years due to several factors. But he plays his last game tomorrow night (Thursday) so we have planned to go see him for over a month. He was supposed to play tonight but they changed it. That’s okay. We can celebrate my birthday tonight and then watch him play tomorrow. We will be home Friday.  The cool thing is he turns 13 next Thursday (the 17th) and we will be celebrating (or that bemoaning?) that he will be a teenager.  So we will be returning to Ohio for that.  Oh….the things you do for your grandchildren. (Face smack)

Say a prayer for us please as we travel. I-70 is torn up with construction to the Ohio border so I plan to take an alternate route. We will see how alternate it is. 🙂  I may send you greetings from Alaska again. Wait…that’s the opposite direction. Think Jo will notice??  🙂 🙂

 

 

#OutofCommission#UGH

Written by cycleguy on October 7th, 2019

In my weekend post I alluded to the fact that I have been crazy busy but it will soon slow down. Well…that slow down will begin occurring this week.

I began last week preparing for a procedure they want all 50+ year olds to have. My earnest prep took place today as I had to limit even more of what I ate or drank. Translated that means I ate nothing solid and drank some nasty stuff as well as a prep drink for a procedure which takes place tomorrow morning (Tuesday). I’m not a rookie with this procedure…unfortunately. I have had 4 of these and each time they have found polyps that required removal and diagnostic lab work. They have come back okay except a few were “pre-cancerous” so I submit myself to this on a regular basis. I have told Jo if doing this procedure  would keep me from getting colon cancer I would do it every 6 months…although I don’t want any doctor becoming that familiar with me. 🙂  So I would appreciate your prayers for protection during the procedure and a good report afterwards. So Monday and Tuesday I will be out of commission, especially Tuesday.

Wednesday we head to Ohio to celebrate my birthday (Wednesday the 9th) and to watch our grandson play his last football game this year on Thursday night. It has been the only one we have been able to see.

Then on the 14th and 21st it is actually a good “out of commission.” I am having eye surgery for cataracts which will allow me to GET RID OF MY GLASSES! I have worn them since I was in 4th grade and so I look forward (pun intended) to not having to wear them! No more cycling with sweat running down my glasses and my eyelashes spreading sweat all over my glasses! No more cutting grass or working outside and having to wipe sweat off so I can see! No more waking up and reaching for my glasses first thing! Can you tell I’m excited?

Finally, Braden turns 13 on the 17th and we wouldn’t miss his teen birthday for anything. So off to Ohio we go.

Whew! What slow down? Looks like another cruise to Alaska is in order. Donations accepted.  🙂  Just kidding.

That’s not all for this month but that’s enough for now. What does your month look like?

 

#WrongRoad#Weakness

Written by cycleguy on October 6th, 2019

This morning (Sunday) I preached on the letter to the church at Thyatira and I approached it from the aspect of tolerance. I’ll state it right off the bat: no matter what our culture says and even what other “churches” tell us, tolerance is never mentioned in Scripture.  Another word some may be more familiar with is Compromise.  I’d like to take this blog space and talk about that a bit.

In the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus commends them for their works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and that their latter works exceeded the first (I think that means they were maturing and growing and not stagnant). BUT the church was an immoral cesspool (v.20). That “train” was led by a woman He names Jezebel. I seriously doubt that is her real name. I mean…what parent in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel, or even Delilah? Be that as it may, my research seems to indicate two possibilities she was teaching:

  1. Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught that the physical universe was evil and the spiritual was good. This led to what is called Dualism. Today is it is seen in those who teach Jesus was not fully human and fully divine.  A popular brand of this is Jesus was human until His baptism when He became divine and then somewhere before His crucifixion He became human again. One of the most prominent teachers of this heresy is the false “apostle” Bill Johnson and those associated with Bethel Church and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement.
  2. Antinomianism. It is a combination of two words: Anti which means “No” and nomian which means “Law.” Hence, No Law. This teaches you can do whatever you want as long as you invoke God’s grace when you are done. This is taught by….just about everyone. I believe God’s forgiveness is complete and His grace covers any sin, but I also believe He wants us to be holy, not acting however we want then constantly seeking God’s grace for forgiveness.

Tolerance is a slippery slope we want to avoid. We will be called all sorts of names.  We will be looked on as a three-headed monster. But God’s truth stands and we are much better taking “heat” from our culture than taking “heat” from God.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

 

#Tolerance#Intolerance

Written by cycleguy on October 4th, 2019

I’ve been absent from this blog since last week. I always said I would only post if I had something to say. While I have a lot to say (ask anyone around here), not all of it is significant. Least that is what Jo tells me. 🙂  Life has been sort of crazy busy for me and writing did take a back seat this week. Maybe someday…SOMEDAY…life will slow down. It sort of will the next few weeks. But I’ll tell that story in another post.

This post is about this weekend’s upcoming sermon: To the Tolerant Church. After last week’s time away for a wedding in St. Louis (it went well and we had a great weekend), it will be good to be back in the pulpit. My sermon is on the church at Thyatira from Revelation 2:18-29.  In many ways the church at Thyatira and the church at Pergamum has some things in common with the biggest being that they were both guilty of compromise. Thyatira, more specifically, was guilty of tolerance of evil.

When I think of this church I think so much of what is going on in the church today. Afraid of what others will think we have become tolerant of blatant evil and sin. We are afraid of being falsely accused of being unloving, of having some phobia, that we are giving in to our culture’s “demand” that we accept it all. The church at Thyatira was guilty of allowing Jezebel to thrive in their midst. I’ll be discussing who this “woman” might be.

Tolerance is the bane of the church today. Least I am convinced of that.  It will not be an easy sermon to preach. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.

 

#Forgiveness#WhatJesusdoes

Written by cycleguy on October 3rd, 2019

It seems to happen more than we know. Certainly more than we like to hear. Someone being shot/killed by accident. Honestly, I do not know the whole story behind this trial. I admittedly hide my head in the sand when it comes to reading much news. But when I saw this on a blog I read I felt I needed to pass it along. I can’t take credit for this so I’m just going to give you the link to the other blog and ask you to go there.

So here is the link to the other blog:

If we as Christ-followers practiced more of this, imagine what a difference we would make. Oh yeah…bring your kleenex.

 

#Calling#Shepherd#Presence

Written by cycleguy on September 25th, 2019

This post is a little bit of both worlds: the world of the “big church” and the world of “I’m a shepherd.” They will intertwine so I hope I don’t totally confused you. 🙂

When I started on my journey as a pastor while I was still in college (1972), I admit to total “duncity.” I know that is not a word but that is the way I would describe myself. Clueless might make more sense. What did I know? It was the summer following my Sophomore year and I was asked to preach at a country church-Mt Camel Christian Church in Mt. Sterling, KY. It was 100 miles away from the school. I worked all week and then would head down either sometime Saturday or very early Sunday morning. It was aptly named…it was at the top of a mountain.

As I graduated and became more acclimated to the pastor’s life, I began to see that I was to be a shepherd of the people. I took that seriously, sometimes too seriously, at the sake of my family. I was gone a lot. I didn’t know any better, plus that was the day and age of the visiting pastor. Office work all morning and visiting in the afternoon and many evenings. In my mind I was shepherding my people.

Then came Church, Inc. That was the time in the 90s when being a pastor switched gears. We were no longer shepherds; we were CEO’s. How can I say this? EPIC FAIL for me. And in my mind EPIC FAIL for the church as a whole. I’m not going to mention any names of the gurus, but being a pastor was no longer about being a shepherd but being the “chief vision-giver” of the church. Frankly, I despise that moniker. For one, I don’t work well in a vacuum. I dream best when surrounded by others who can dream as well. Batting ideas off each other. Seeking God’s purpose and plan more than my own.  Not doing things and making decisions unilaterally (although I sometimes have too) but including others in the dreaming and planning process.

Somewhere along the line I came full circle. The best part? I became a shepherd again. Granted I don’t go like I used to. Safety issues (translate that #MeToo, etc)  have changed the way I do ministry. I no longer see females alone, in my office or in their house or at a meal in a restaurant. If they can’t say it with Jo around, they don’t need to be telling me. (She or someone will at least be in the building if I meet with them at the office). But being a shepherd has allowed me to once again adopt something I read from Skye Jethani’s book, Immeasurable:

When I enter the room, I represent the presence of God.

That is especially true of visitation in a hospital or nursing home. I am Jesus to many- and honestly?- that is a very scary thought. But it is true. I am their shepherd and I represent Jesus. No CEO type pastor who sits in an ivory tower; is isolated from people; or looks down on people from “the sacred office” can say that.  I had to learn the hard way that I was wired to be a shepherd.

I would rather represent Jesus any day than some stuffy Church, Inc organization. You can’t put a price on people’s lives and hearts. No matter how badly Church, Inc wants to do that. So leave me out of the Global Leadership Summit and other Church, Inc gatherings. “Father, give me a heart for the people of OVCF.”

I apologize for the length of this “rant.” Thanks for reading this far.  If you have gone this far, I’d sure like to know what your thoughts are.

 

#Caring#Empathy

Written by cycleguy on September 23rd, 2019

I have been a pastor for over 45 years. In those years if I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times (and wish I had asked for $1 every time I did! I could retire and live off the interest. 🙂 ). The statement I have heard often from both nurses and even doctors is “Doctors and nurses make the worst patients.” I’ve seen cool, calm and collected nurses under extreme pressure melt when it comes to their own treatment.  I’m guessing it is one of those “I know too much” kind of deals. You know…they know what all could go wrong.

When I had my bike wreck in February of 2017 I spent 8 hours in the hallway of the Bloomington Hospital ER. Even though I had gotten there mid afternoon, I waited. It was a Friday in IU town. Although in and out of it due to pain, I was aware of the screaming person in one of the rooms due to drugs. I was aware I was put off for treatment or x-rays because a college student came in high and had an accident. And while I have my thoughts about being pushed aside for stupidity, I found something else.

E.M.P.A.T.H.Y

I was on the receiving end of delayed treatment. I laid in that hallway for 8 hours being pushed aside for others. Broken collarbone. 3 broken ribs. Multiple contusions to my face and hands and legs, i.e. road rash (but fortunately not a head injury due to my helmet which was split in 3 places). I now know what it is like when people tell me they sat or laid in the ER for hours waiting for treatment. Been there done that.

Empathy is a great gift. It allows one to know what another is going through and to feel with them. I’m reminded of the Scripture which says, “He was in all points tempted like we are yet without sin.” Imagine that! Jesus, the perfect, divine, virgin born Son of God knows what I am going through and how I struggle with sin.  He is not some far-off or far-out dude; He is the “close by and I understand what you are experiencing” Savior.

How are you with empathy? Do you feel it when others hurt? Do you take the time to let them know you are thinking of them (without telling your whole story)? As a follower of Christ we are told to cry when others cry; to laugh when others laugh; and to feel when others feel.  How well are you doing?

 

#Persecution

Written by cycleguy on September 20th, 2019

Persecution has dogged the tracks of the church ever since its beginning. From the first recorded “defense” by Peter and John in Acts 4 to the first imprisonment in Acts 5 to the all out attacks of the Sanhedrin and Saul in the early chapters of Acts, persecution has been part of being a follower of Christ. And I don’t believe it is going to “let up” in the ensuing years. Things are beginning to “amp up” toward the church and Christianity in our day.

The postcard written to the church in Smyrna relates to their persecution because of their faith. But the truth is persecution does not destroy the church; it makes it strong. Jesus promised persecution: “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  He also said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)  The church at Smyrna is one of the two churches where nothing negative is said about them. In this case, persecution did make them stronger not weaker.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I preach this weekend. I’ve been fighting some head junk all week plus my Saturday will be spent at our table at the Apple Butter Festival (something our town has every year).