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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>

Surprise!!

Monday, April 8th, 2019

This past Sunday the church I have pastored since November of 2005 surprised me and Jo. The picture which follows will tell the story.

Yeah…you’re seeing that right. It has been a bucket list of mine for a long time. Jo’s bucket list got lighter almost two years ago when someone gifted us with a week’s stay at a Timeshare in Daytona Beach. She has always wanted to go to the beach. They felt after my two bike accidents and major back surgery as a result that time away was a good thing. We agreed. 🙂 🙂

The back story to this trip is several months ago I asked Jo what she thought about a a cruise to Alaska. We contacted an old friend who had renewed her travel agent license (and whom I also think was in on this “deception”)  but after getting prices to the cruise and flights to Seattle we decided to back off and save for another year. We were okay with that. We would just take little junkets to Ohio and other places to get away which didn’t require a lot of money.  Combine that with the need for a new roof this summer and a new driveway and some needed house repairs and you have a recipe for waiting.

Fast forward to yesterday. It has been a really emotional week and weekend (see my other blog for April 8), even several months, so this could not have come at a better time. We were both stunned when Ryan put two chairs down where I stand to preach and asked us to come to the front. He started by asking me how long I have been doing this (being a pastor) and I said 45+ years. He then asked Kris, a lady whose family is going to Alaska this summer and close friends to the agent in Florida, to come forward. Kris presented us with the bucket and an all-expenses paid trip to Alaska, including air fare.  Can someone say, “Knock me over with a feather?” Jo & I were both so stunned we didn’t even cry.  In all my years as a pastor I have NEVER been treated by a church to something this magnanimous.  It looks like we are going to shoot for the first of September when they have an opening rather than wait until next year.

I thought I would share my/our surprise with you. We are blessed. And this is just a small part of the heart of these people. I have never felt so loved as I have here.  This is just a minor reason why. And I can honestly say that even without something this generous, I love these people.

Effectiveness

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

I’m going to steal from my other blog for this week. I have been reading through (for a second time) and writing about a book by Skye Jethani called Immeasurable. I thought I would take this week here to write some thoughts about a chapter he titles Effectiveness. For today, here is a test:

Leader A. Lifted an entire nation in a time of despair. He mobilized his people against unimaginable odds with a clear vision and inspiring passion. He launched a movement that has impacted literally everyone alive today. He set in motion an industrial and scientific revolution that produced the first computer, the first jet airplane, began human exploration of space, and unlocked the mystery of nuclear energy.  Almost every aspect of the modern world has, in one way or another, been influenced by this man. By the time he died at the age of only 56, everyone on the planet knew his name. Without a doubt, Leader A changed the world.

Leader B. Lived during the same era. In fact, he died just 21 days before Leader A, but his life was very different. At the height of his influence, Leader B ran a school with just a hundred students. He wrote a few books but was not widely regarded.  He was beloved by his friends and family and had a reputation for being both intelligent and faithful, but at the time of his death almost no one knew his name, and most considered his life’s work unfulfilled-including Leader B himself.

So, given the choice, which leader’s strategies would you rather study? Which man’s life would you rather emulate? Which leadership conference would you rather attend-the one featuring a keynote address by Leader A, or the one with a small workshop in a back hall facilitated by Leader B?  GIVE YOUR ANSWER NOW (before I give the punch line).

If you are inspired by the world-changing effectiveness of Leader A, congratulations! You’ve chosen Adolf Hitler. Leader B was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his relentless opposition to Hitler.

So…how did you do? Whom did you pick? You see, simple effectiveness is not enough.  We often equate effectiveness with success. I once heard someone say, “It is not success that matter; it is faithfulness that matters.” I agree. To be “successful” is not wrong; it’s okay. But it is far better to be faithful to what we have been called to do.  I want to pursue this line of thought this week. Hope you will join me.

Consideration

Friday, March 29th, 2019

I am not preaching this weekend. My original plans had been to be in Phoenix for the MS ride, but the price of tickets and the lack of riding this winter kind of put the kabosh on that idea. So I am riding the MS150 in August of this year in Lebanon, IN. I am still raising money for MS so if you go to my page you can donate toward that effort.

Anyway, I am not preaching this weekend. Ryan is. Jo and I are taking a few days to get away. I need it more than I realized. It has been a really stressful Winter and Spring.  I’ll not bore you with my details…you have enough of them yourself I’m sure. We modified our Phoenix plan to do something else. I’m going to miss meeting some of my online Phoenix friends but there will another day…here or in heaven.

I’ve started rereading a book called Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. You can see more about it on my other blog, Living in the Shadow.  As sort of a teaser I would like to give you this quote from the book:

In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise. (p.11)

Skye goes on to make a comment about that.

“Just as the Greeks exalted philosophers and the Romans exalted soldiers, we exalt entrepreneurs and CEOs. Our culture celebrates their accomplishments and seeks to emulate their strategies.” (p.11)

I was once captured by the allure of “Church, Inc” as it has been called. I have several books in my office related to escaping that trap. One is called Escape from Church, Inc. by Glenn Wagner. A wonderful, powerful book!

I would like you to give some thought to these words. I’d also like to hear what you are thinking. You can comment here then go to my other blog and comment there on that post. (Yeah…shameless promotion).

Have a great weekend! Lord willing, see you when I get back.

Appreciation

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the year.

IT IS VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION NIGHT!

Once a year Ryan, Diana and I give a night to honor our volunteers.  In the past we have done skits; shown videos of Tim Hawkins and other Christian comedians; provided a full-course mean (catered not cooked by either of us); given away prizes and just had a general all-around good night. I like to spend the night personally thanking each volunteer for making things go this past year.

Last year we switched things up a bit by renting our local Tivoli theater and showed The Incredibles. We gave each volunteer a ticket for free popcorn and a drink, gave away prizes, and had a great time. We decided to do the same thing this year. Good thing because all three of us have been swamped with life and this takes a bit less effort than doing skits, finding and paying for a catered meal, setting up tables and chairs and clean-up. This year we will be giving each volunteer a ticket for a free popcorn and drink and also have some door prizes to give away. What are we showing this year? The movie I consider one of, if not THE best animated movie ever made. CARS. A movie with a message about cooperation, pride, teamwork and getting along. All essentials for any team-volunteer or paid- to be successful.

If you are from OVCF and have volunteered and happen to be reading this, strap on your seat belt, grab some popcorn and a drink, and enjoy the ride with us! By the way, we never turn anyone away who wants to join us. I’d like to invite you to come join us if you are reading this from somewhere else on the planet but you may find that hard to do. Come virtually. About 6:00 pop in CARS in your DVD player, make some popcorn and grab a pop or water and join us. Sorry we can’t share our door prizes with you. The M&Ms might get melted or old (or eaten) by the time they reach you. 🙂

Drowning

Friday, February 15th, 2019

It sounds somewhat presumptuous to say, “No one should worry.” Even as I write that or say that I feel like I should have a shield or some armor or at least plan to duck. Within any room; within any event; within any church, work, or school, there are worriers.  Research has shown that worry causes serious health issues: ulcers, colitis, nerves, sleeplessness, and a host of other ailments.

As I began working on the theme for this year (Unsinkable), I also began working on some sermon ideas. One of the ones I came up with was “Icebergs,” those things which can sink us or our faith.  It is common knowledge Titanic was sunk by an iceberg which was under the surface. Many people’s faith is sunk by icebergs under the surface.  One of the biggest, but one often given credence by us as “concern” is worry.

My sermon Sunday is from Psalm 37:1-11 and verse 23. This happens to be one of my favorite in the Bible so I’m looking forward to it. The writer of this psalm makes it really easy for even the casual reader by telling us what the solution to worry is by highlighting some words at the beginning of the verses: Trust. Delight. Commit. Be still. Refrain.  I’ll finish out by talking about “the steps of a man are established by the Lord…when he delights in His way.”

Thanks for your prayers.

It’s been a busy week so the blog took a backseat. Thanks for being patient.

Essentials

Monday, February 11th, 2019

There are two sayings I adopted years ago that to me still stand the test of time:

“In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things, love.”

“Where the Bible speaks we speak; where the Bible is silent we are silent.”

These two sayings would take care of a lot of “hills” people are dying on when they don’t need to.

My conclusion: We minor in majors; we major in minors.

Think that through. When it comes to doctrinal issues, there are some non-negotiables (I know that is not word but I still use it), some majors we simply cannot compromise on. The virgin birth of Christ. The divinity of Jesus-that he was fully God and fully man. Popular thought heresy says Jesus was born a man, became divine, but went to the cross as a man. (Can you say Bill Johnson?) The sacrificial, substitutionary, redemptive act of Christ on the cross for our salvation. The physical resurrection of Jesus from the grave. The ultimate return of Jesus to bring an end to life on this planet as we know it. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one. The Bible as God’s authoritative Word, inspired and inerrant. Those (and others not mentioned) are majors and should not be compromised on.

But our religious culture is fast pushing them to the side in order to major in minors.

While I believe homosexual activity is sinful and wrong, I don’t believe it is the unpardonable sin. I also don’t really make a big deal about the creation story. I believe very strongly in “In the Beginning God…”  If the creation of the world was 7 24 hour days or whether “day” was a longer span of time, is not a game-changer to me. “In the beginning God.”  He can do whatever He wants to do in whatever way He want to. But do I think it is a matter of salvation? No, I don’t. While I don’t think we ought to “uncouple” ourselves from the OT as Andy Stanley says we should, I also don’t believe we find our salvation there. The Law was given as a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, Paul says, so we can’t dismiss it. But I don’t go to the Law or the OT to find my salvation. I find it in Christ, in His story as told in the NT.  That is a major I can’t minor in.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just be kind. 🙂

 

Grounded

Friday, February 1st, 2019

One of the worst fears of any ship or boat is being grounded. Hitting a sandbar. Hitting a reef. Being tossed on shore. (Think Gilligan’s Island! 🙂 )  But I’ve got another kind of grounding in mind.

G. Campbell Morgan, a British preacher who lived from 1863-1945 (that means he “saw” both the Civil War and both World Wars) once wrote:

If our Rock were not our Redeemer, we would be without hope. If our Redeemer were not our Rock, we might be afraid.  Let us never forget that our redemption has in it the strength of the Mighty One.

Since the first of the year (except the Sunday we had to cancel due to the weather), I’ve been looking at Psalm 27 and its truth as an anchor. For an anchor to hold there must be solid ground, something it can sink into. This Sunday’s Scripture show us there is something we can sink our teeth into, the solid ground of the Word of God. My sermon this week will be on Psalm 19: 7-11. There is so much richness there in those few verses! First, I’m going to look at 5 myths surrounding the Bible, then look at the solid foundation the Scripture offers us.

I’m excited about preaching this message. I love talking about the Bible’s strong foundation. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday.