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#Shepherd#Platform#Integrity

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

In Psalm 78:72 it says of David “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with skillful hands.”  Some translations use the word “integrity” for upright.  This verse is talking about David’s approach toward the people of Israel. David served the people as their shepherd with integrity. That verse has always been at the forefront of my brain ever since I read it years ago.  It serves as a challenge to me to shepherd the people i serve with integrity.

Maybe that is why I have not cared whether I became “known” or not.  Oh…wait a minute. That’s not true. There was a time I cared a lot…an awful lot. I would hear of friends of mine who were preaching at large churches or conducting meetings in other churches and the “J” word would kick in. (That would be “J”ealousy for those who are unsure).  But then I began to think about time and schedule. I began to be involved in watching my daughters play ball. I wondered about sermon prep. When did they have the time to do that while jetsetting all over the globe? (Then I found out many of them have assistants who do all the research and sometimes even write the sermons).  I thought about the one thing I really like to do as an aside (cycle) and wondered when could I do that? Certainly not on a plane or in a hotel (stationary bikes are another word for B-O-O-O-R-I-N-G!).  Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this was “finding” the verse from Psalm 78. When would I have the time to be a shepherd?  Now, if I wanted to be a CEO-type  then, by all means, have at it! But I wasn’t called to be a CEO. I was called to be a pastor, a shepherd. The day I realized that was the day I quit worrying about what others thought; how big I could get; how “known” I could be; and became satisfied with being a shepherd of the church God gave me to serve.  Amazing how the perspective changes.  My worst enemy (ME) was put to death that day.

I’d rather be found faithful shepherding my sheep in an obscure, out-of-the-way little town than be serving an image of myself being applauded.  I’d rather be here than anywhere else.

#Different#WildandWooly#AllOkay

Monday, June 17th, 2019

If you read my post June 16-Weekend Extra from my other blog, you will know the general basis for this post.  Saturday afternoon and evening we had storms rumble through our area. Okay so they did more than just rumble. Some touched down. Yeah, we were “blessed” with the presence of tornadoes. The town proper of Spencer was spared but some of the outlying areas were not so fortunate. A little town a few miles southwest of Spencer called Freedom had a tornado touch down but fortunately it was not deadly. Downed power lines and mangled trees was about all I think. Several others touched down as well. One did some major damage to some barns and houses and a power substation (REMC). The substation which supplies power to the church building. Our house provider is Duke Energy and they had our power back on around 3:00 am Sunday morning.

The church building was another story. When I got there yesterday (Sunday) at 3:45 it was pitch black. I am writing this at 5:25 am on Monday and as far as I know it it is still pitch black. I’m at home so I have power. I’ll check it when I am done working on my sermon. But my purpose of this post is to tell you about our Sunday worship.

OVCF and its leaders have always “prided” themselves in their ability to adapt. Now, as I say that, I am not referring to the attractional church idea of adapting to culture. We have tried to stay “fluid” in our thinking about ways to do things. That was on full display yesterday. I contacted a few folks (Youth pastor, secretary, and Worship Team leaders) and told them about not having any power and can we do an Unplugged service. EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, was unplugged. No lights. No A/C. No plugged in instruments. No cordless mic to speak with. No fans. Well…you get the idea. Diana, the church secretary, sent out a mass email and posted it on the church’s FB page about the time change: one service at 10:45 instead of two (9 and 10:45). Then we waited and wondered if anyone would show up. Over 100 people showed up! Some had lost power for a short period of time. Some had lost it for most of the night. Some still had none. But they came.  We opened blinds for light. The front doors were left open. We put some lanterns in the bathrooms. We did the same in the children’s wing. Those teachers and kids were troopers. We sang. We had communion. We gave. I preached (the weak link in the whole morning). We prayed. We laughed (especially when someone’s phone went off with an emergency signal for flash flooding).  I referenced believers in other countries who meet like this every week due to economics or due to government interference.

It was a good day. I was proud of the folks who make up OVCF. I am honored to be their pastor.  I thank them for their willingness to adapt (in a good way). And I thank God for showing us we don’t bells and whistles to worship Him. All we need are hearts open to Him and willing to meet Him anywhere, anytime, and in any circumstance.

#LoneRanger#DIY

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

On my other blog, Living in the Shadow, I touched on this idea of being a Lone Ranger or a Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY). Since that is more of a devotional blog I had to limit what I said and how I applied it. I’d like to expand on my thoughts here.  Perhaps you might like to read my devotion here and then come back with an idea of where my head is.

As a pastor, it is easy to get the “heady” idea-both personally and given by others-that I (any pastor) is a solver of all sorts of problems. When I was talking about going into the ministry when I was in high school, I can still remember my mom turning in the car and saying, “Just remember, honey, to do it for the right reason.” You see, back then the pastor was “the parson” and looked up to by about everyone. The business community respected them. The schools looked to them for help.  No question the people in the church sought him out for help in about every area of life. As I see it, pride was a constant enemy to guard against.  But, of course, it is no longer that way. For the most part it is because of our changing world. But some of it is our own fault.  Pride did become an issue. As well as several other nefarious acts.

As I have gotten older I have realized more and more that the Lone Ranger with the silver bullet was not wise. For years I thought I could do my work on my own, by myself. Experience AND AGE has taught me differently. In spite of myself, I have come to see God is so much bigger than I had given Him credit for and can actually work better if I get out of the way! 🙂 🙂  We often hear people talking (myself included) about how we often put God in a box. Well, I have come to the conclusion that is what I often did. Not on purpose mind you, but I have to now admit that. I had narrowed Him by my own attitude.

You can see how God handled that in Numbers 11 and by checking out my devotion. But what is interesting to me is Joshua’s reaction.  He had been with Moses since childhood and saw God’s involvement as a threat to Moses’ leadership. Moses gently corrected him. Joshua saw God as acting outside the system he was used to. But God was expanding Moses’ influence and Joshua’s perception and world. I like the quote I read by Skye Jethani in his book, Immeasurable. He writes:

Rather than operate like the wind, we’d prefer the Spirit operate like an electric fan that we can control to perpetually blow in the same direction. (p.90)

I’m not an advocate of “willy-nilly-Spirit-work” but he has a point. Sometimes God just doesn’t operate like we would like Him to. “The wind blows where it wants” is also true of the work of the Spirit. What Joshua needed to realize, and I do as well, is that God will do what He wants with or without my input or help.

I need to get out of His way. I also need to realize I am not a Lone Ranger; I need others to help do the work. Moses had 70 others (Numbers 11). Joshua had to get with the program. May I, may you, be humble enough to submit to His agenda.

#Enemies

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Before we moved here to Spencer, we lived in Castalia, OH, just outside Sandusky. You know…the home of Cedar Point. We originally moved to Castalia after my ministry in Terre Haute was finished and we sold our house a whole lot quicker than the realtor thought. So we moved in with Jo’s mom who was still living in the house she and Jo’s late father had rented. Castalia was known for having a Cold Creek Festival every year that surprisingly for a little burg was well-attended. It’s other claim to fame was the Cold Creek, a pond and its tributaries that never froze. Of course, when you have that you have a nuisance that develops. Geese. Canadian Geese. Geese of all kinds. Geese that take over the pond. Geese that take over the streets (there was a $1500 fine if you killed one). And geese that left their “gifts” (poop) everywhere. They didn’t care where.

I hated (despised) those animals and I say that without apologies to PETA or any other animal rights group who figures animals are as precious as humans (but think nothing of killing an unborn baby in a womb. Oh, but don’t touch those eagle eggs). Now…understand I’m not for cruelty toward animals but this nonsense has to stop somewhere. Okay. Off soapbox.

I disliked those animals and their deposits. My neighbor tried everything, even remote control trucks to run them off his property. He finally got the town to stop allowing them to be fed at the pond and to remove the food machines. Then he got them to pass an ordinance to get rid of a whole bunch of them, especially ducklings by taking them away.

They were mean animals. They thought nothing of putting their head down and charging. I have heard of people being attacked and hurt badly by their attacks. But after driving the lawnmower over their gifts or stepping in them in the yard, one can only take so much. Fortunately, what I have to worry about here mostly is deer, skunks, and birds flying overhead (hence I always close my sunroof when parked).

A number of years ago (mid ’80s) when Frank Peretti came out with his two hit novels, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, the idea of spiritual warfare “hit the fan.” His books were entertaining reading but people forgot they were fiction. Just fiction. But people acted like they were real. Demons were under every rock and behind every cold, body ache, mishap, and every other bad thing.

The real truth is spiritual warfare is a real thing. A serious thing. It is important that we acknowledge our enemy is real and is “out for blood” and wants nothing more than to destroy us. We have proof of his devastation. Just look around at our world.  He is also reeking havoc in the church. It’s time we acknowledge his “realness” and then say, “The battle is God’s.” Let’s enlist His help.

#ReadThis

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

We are so different…she and I.

I’m white. She is not.

I’m a man. She is not.

I’m tall. She is not.

I have no hair. She has tons of it. 🙂

I like rock music. I’m guessing she does not.

I’m a lifetime heterosexual. She was a lesbian.

I write for fun. She writes for her livelihood.

But one thing we have in common. We both believe in the power of redemption that comes from the Cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on that cross.

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been

I have to admit my first thought about reading this book since its release several months ago was I don’t want to read or hear of another “I-was-born-this-way-so-don’t-ask-me-to-change” book.  But after reading review after review I decided to take the plunge and buy it. Then I had to read it after a few weeks on my shelf. (In fairness, I was reading another book at the time).

I. AM. SO. GLAD. I. READ. THIS. BOOK!! I would highly recommend it to everyone. JHP’s way of saying things shows her “wordsmith” talents. I don’t need to be a fan of her style of poetry or music to like the way she says things in this book. Straight-forward.  Non-compromising in her stance. Honest in her discussion of her past (molestation, abuse, drug use and lesbianism). I was impressed when on page 37 she said, “It is important to note that sexual abuse is not what made me gay. Nor did fatherlessness. They only exaggerated and helped direct the path for what was already there-which is sin.”  No blame. No “I was born gay.” Just a note at the bottom of the page stating sin was the culprit. Thank you JHP for that truth.

I tire of those who hate gays. No…make that I distance myself from them. I don’t hate gays; I just don’t believe their lifestyle choice is biblical. I firmly believe same sex action is sin. But hating the person is not Christ-like nor is it ever going to reach someone with the message of the love of Christ.  Just the exact opposite.  Our little community has a very vocal homosexual community. It boasts of having one of the best attended PRIDE festivals in the state, maybe the country. Tolerance they ask for only goes so far until you disagree with them. Recent vandalism against their property was uncalled for. But they are still people. Still people like thousands of others in our community and around the world who need Jesus.  Thanks to JHP’s book, I not only have a better attitude toward them, but I also have a book I can put in their inquiring minds and hands that will show them Jesus’ love.

My plan is to include some of her quotes in another post since this one has already gone on so long. I’d like to think you will look forward to that post. 🙂

I’d highly suggest you buy and read this book. Then pray for opportunities to pass it along or to put it into practice.

#GoodFeeling

Monday, May 6th, 2019

I don’t know about you but seldom does a good feeling or contentment hit like it does when I have done something for someone else. But this post is not about me; it is about others.

Ever since 2009, the church I pastor (OVCF) has been having what I call a Day of Service (DoS). We started simple with one in the Fall of 2009. The church was struggling. We had gone through an ugly staff dismissal. We had seen our youth group drop like a rock due to kids graduating and going to college. We had experienced what every church hates: a small group use their time together to kick someone in the teeth (that would be me). I chose not to respond and we lost that whole group except for the elder and his wife who chose to stand up for me. Our attendance had fallen from close to 200 to about 120-130. I chose to challenge our people to take our eyes of ourselves and reach out. We had a phenomenal day.

Ever since then we have chosen to a DoS to people in our community. We expanded by asking another church to join us. Except for a few minor doctrinal points (they are Calvinists and I am not), we get along well. They also wanted to do something so we joined forces. We expanded the DoS to twice a year (Spring and Fall) with an emphasis on different projects. The Spring projects are larger involving small businesses like Horse Angels (a horse rescue place), Humane Society, a rescue dog kennel, as well local people who need help. In the Fall we change oil for those who need it free of charge. We also do the bulk of our local work for the people during this DoS.  Last year in the Spring we invited the Chamber of Commerce to join us. They also helped with the Fall event and then this Spring’s event.

That event was yesterday (Sunday). We were a bit more energetic in our approach. Our list included Horse Angels, the Cunningham dog rescue kennels; Humane Society, MyPath (a local effort to get a walking path going), Uplands Peak (a vegan farm animal rescue work); Roadside clean up; Spencer lawn and home help; and Gosport (a local town) clean-up.  We had some good cooperation from both churches and the Chamber. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, especially considering we have had nothing but rain the past year. (Okay slight exaggeration but close).  🙂

I was really proud of the 40+ people who represented OVCF during that 3 hour period. I drove around and they were working hard. Cleaning out dog pens. Mucking long overdue horse stall (and yes, the smell was as bad as you can imagine). Helping mulch. Entertain animals. Clean up litter from the side of roads. (Why can’t people throw things away, but not outside?).

All in all it was a good day. Thanks to all who helped make this a good DoS. And most of all, I pray Jesus was glorified.

Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?

Alone

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

As in “leave well enough…”

This is not a post about being Alone, although I have had my share of that this past week as I’ve spent time with people who have lost people they love.

This is about something we say, why we say it and what brought it up.

I was in the local Circle K buying gas for my truck and mower and while waiting in line I looked down and about gagged. M&Ms staring me right in the face. Mint since the package was green?

NO.

Jalapeno-flavored M&Ms. Are you kidding me? Since I knew the clerk I made a comment to him and the other patron about it. Jalapeno-flavored M&Ms? The clerk shuddered along with me and the other customer when I said something, then the clerk said something wise (least in my eyes): “Why can’t they just leave chocolate alone?” Plain. Peanut. Mint. Crunch. Toffee. Caramel. Caramel with Sea Salt. Raspberry Crunch. Peanut Butter. I’m sure there are others.

But Jalapeno?

Sounds like some who thinks change is good. Change is good…if it has a purpose. But change for the sake of change? Not so. I want to ask them the same question as the clerk did: “Why can’t they just leave it alone?” I’m all for change. I don’t like sameness. I get bored. Changing the order of service around is okay by me. Changing the style of music (as long as it isn’t country, rap, hip hop, or any of those other foreign entities) is okay. 🙂 Changing seating is okay. You get my point. But to change the message. N.O. W.A.Y.  The medium may change but the message never changes.

The message of the cross must never change. We may present it differently than we have in the past or even than others do, but the message of the cross is rock solid. THAT MESSAGE NEVER CHANGES!! N.E.V.E.R!!! Have I said that enough?

We are in the week many denominations call “Holy Week.” While I don’t belong to one of them, nor do I put any extra emphasis on this week, I want to be mindful of what is coming. Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. I want my message on the cross to be specific and clear.  That message will never change and I will leave well enough it alone.

Done!

Friday, April 12th, 2019

There is nothing like the satisfaction of being able to shake our hands together and feel the relief of a job well done. Whether it is a one-day job or a month-long job, being able to breathe a sigh of accomplishment is a good thing.

There should be no question that Jesus lived a unique life. Even the people recognized something was different about Him. “No one ever spoke like this man” was not uncommon to hear. The religious leaders couldn’t handle His frankness and willingness to call it like it was when it came to their religious hypocrisy. Here is something you might find interesting. Max Lucado in his book He Chose the Nails has written a chapter called “I Understand Your Pain.” Near the end of the chapter he talks about fulfilled prophecies, especially at the end of Jesus’ life. After giving a breakdown of some of those prophecies, Max goes on to say that Jesus fulfilled 332 distinct prophecies in the OT. The mathematical possibilities of all these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man is 1/84 with 97 zeroes!! Now that is amazing and sort of throws a dagger into the old lie of “Jesus just happened to be the right man at the right time.”

The two statements I will be considering Sunday are just another example of fulfilled prophecies. One is a cry for relief and the other is a statement of completion. “I thirst.” “It is finished.”

I’m not ashamed to ask for your prayers. It has been a super long week and weekend and I can feel my body and mind a tad bit tired. I’d appreciate your prayers for my strength and also my spirit. And please say a prayer for those who listen.

Effectiveness#3

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

This is my last post on the idea of Effectiveness as the church’s moniker and guiding principle. I’d encourage you to read Effectiveness #1 & #2 to see what my stream of thought has been.

Skye minces no words when we says,

We have replaced the love of the living God with sacrifices to the Idol of Effectiveness. When we bow to this idol, it steals our joy and replaces it with an unbearable burden. (P.24)

Because I was enamored with Church, Inc for awhile, I not only agree but also have to add something else. When I was pursuing this false idol the words which came out of my mouth quite a bit were “Excellence,” “Relevant,” ‘Impactful,” and others. All things were to be done with excellence and if not, I was embarrassed. Relevance is still around today. I dress casual but trust me when I say I DON’T wear the latest fashions (including $1000 shoes); sport a sleeve of tattoos (not that it is immoral but I just choose not to); nor do I globe trot the country because I have the latest “hot” thing. I prefer my local church and being a shepherd.

Here is what I finally learned (and Skye backs it up…not that he needed me to say that! 🙂 ): God does not judge whether I am relevant, or doing things with excellence or am making a global impact. He is more interested in me being faithful to the calling He has placed on my life. At the end of the day, that is all I need to concern myself with. Have I been faithful to Him? I don’t think He really cares about HOW I did them (excellently, etc) but whether I DID THEM for His glory.

Effective or Faithful? I cast my vote for Faithful.  How about you>