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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.

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>

Effectiveness#2

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

“I’m afraid of living an insignificant life.” So said one speaker at a conference. That’s a good sentiment. I could say that as well. I might say it as “I want to leave a legacy.”

But here’s the rub: what is significant? What kind of legacy? Well….I guess it depends on who and what one listens to. If I listen to the world’s definition of significance, I’ll hear something totally different from God’s definition. Ask someone the definition of significance and most will tie it to something they have done-even though it may be something truly worthy like a home for unwed mothers, or a shelter, or feeding the homeless, etc. But that significance is tied to “do.”

When that idea creeps into a Christ-follower’s thinking, or the church, then it is easy to think my value (significance) is related to what I do, what I have achieved. I tie how I feel about myself to what I do. So the “bigger” something is the more significant my life appears to be.

NOT. TRUE.

Significance is not found in what I do or even don’t do. My value to God is based on what I am in His eyes. He isn’t going to hold me up and carry me on His shoulders to be praised before an adoring crowd. I’m not going to be ride the wave like a coach or star player after a huge victory. My significance is not based on my effectiveness (see Leader A vs Leader B again in that first post), but on my relationship with God. Service is good but it should never trump being with Him.

What do you think? Better yet, ask yourself how you view your significance. Is there a change I need to make so I can see myself through God’s eyes?

 

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.

OldAgeObservations

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

My title is Growing Old vs Getting Old.

There is a well-worn saying that stands the test of time:”There are two things which are certain-death and taxes.” No argument on that!! The rub is the part which usually precedes the death part: old age.

We have milestones in our lives. 21 signals “adulthood” (as if). 30 for a pastor was/is the magic age, i.e. a pastor is now old enough to show maturity, gain respect and to have been around the block a few times. 35-30 is supposed to be the pastor’s most productive years-something about youth and energy and learning. 🙂 40 is a tough age for some. 50 is even tougher because a sense of mortality is kicking in. 60 is seen as the start of the downhill slops. 65 is “retirement.” Beyond that? It’s anyone’s guess (largely because I’m not there yet).

I’d like to invite you to read the rest of this at my other blog, Living in the Shadow. I’d be honored if you would visit and consider leaving a comment there or here (or both). 🙂

Blues

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Several definitions come to mind with the word:

  1. Plural of the color on the ROYGBIV spectrum.
  2. Type of music usually done with deep emotion. There are the standard blues artists B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Darrel Mansfield and Glenn Kaiser (the latter two were/are in the Christian music scene).
  3. A state of mind often compared to depression or defeat. “I have the blues today” or “I’m in a blue mood.”

Be assured those are my definitions. They are not scholastic or academic by any stretch. Me? An academic? Will never happen. 🙂

It is not embarrassing to admit to bouts of the “blues,” even as a follower of Christ. Some of the most prominent names in Christendom were prone to it. Charles Spurgeon was one of them. But his went even deeper. I used to be foolish enough to think all one needed to do was “buck it up” and quote Scripture and praise God and all the blues will be lifted. Try telling that to someone who struggles with clinical depression. You might get swatted across the face (if they care enough to do it).

My sermon Sunday is entitled “Stop Singing the Blues.” I’m using Psalm 77 as my Scripture. It is another psalm by Asaph. He reveals quite a bit about his struggle with the blues (as I will call it), but he also finishes by giving us a good remedy for those times when we struggle and feel overwhelmed. I have no desire to give a sermon on “Five Easy Answers to Your Depression” since I don’t know 5 answers nor do I preach those kinds of sermons.  I will, however, emphasize Asaph’s approach to it all. {Hint: it starts at verse 10 then to verses 14-15 and then check out verse 19}.

Your prayers would be much appreciated. Prayers for clarity. Prayers for receptive hearts. Prayers for God’s Word to speak and penetrate. Thanks.

This will complete my series on An Anchor. I have been preaching from Psalms since the beginning of the year. I’ll be away next Sunday and Ryan, our youth pastor, will start a series I am calling “Last Words” (7 last sayings of Jesus) which will take us to Resurrection Sunday.  Then on to Romans 8.  If you care to listen to any of the sermons on Psalms you can catch the podcast on the church website.

Fair

Monday, March 18th, 2019

For the first time since I started writing my blog in 2008 I failed to post a weekend blog about my Sunday sermon.  I’d like to beg off by saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It would be more accurate to say, “Time supersonics when you’re busy.” It seems like I was a “day late and a dollar short” all weekend long. Not that anything bad happened it was just so full.  I’ll not bore you with all the details, let’s just suffice it to say, I was swamped.

My sermon was on Psalm 73 and I called it “Life’s Not Fair!”  Those three words often fall off the lips of our children and we might say back, “Tough! Life’s not fair. Deal with it!” But there are some issues that snarky attitude just doesn’t fit. Seeing dishonest people get ahead. A weeping widow at a graveside wondering why the drunken driver lived but not her husband and the children’s father. A child being rushed to the hospital, the victim of a terrorist bomb. Scenarios like those and more don’t want easy, cliche-laden answers. Saying life isn’t fair is not reserved for kids. There are weightier matters that not even adults have an answer for.

Asaph (the author of Psalm 73) had similar questions.  He allowed his self-pity to take him to the bottom because he admits his heart was filled with envy, resentment and confusion.  Asaph found himself at the bottom of the barrel and needed a lift. He found it in the presence of God.  It was there Asaph was able to recalibrate his heart.

That’s not a bad idea on this Monday morning. A busy week ahead assures me of some needed quiet time for recalibration.  How about you?

 

Explanation

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

I’ve been absent for a few days from this blog. Sunday afternoon, after our morning worship, Jo, Tami and I took off for a few days in Ohio. Tami is on Spring Break, as is our nephew, so it seemed like an excellent time to get away and enjoy our family. We had a crazy time with a 12 year old who keeps us in stitches. We also realize those days when he likes to be with his grandpa and Mamaw and Aunt Tami are winding down so we have to take advantage of them.

I got back into Spencer in the early afternoon and after unloading a boatload of stuff, I came to the office where I am trying to catch up on several things. Why am I trying to cram so much into one afternoon? Because tomorrow 2 other men and I are heading to Terre Haute for a Church Safety and Security Seminar which will run from 9-4:30. Unless I miss the boat I suspect I am going to be one tired puppy.

While I was gone I made my way to Panera Bread on Tuesday morning while everyone else was sleeping in order to have some Quiet and Reading time. While there I wrote this:

I’m calling this Spoken Words vs Unspoken Words.

It seems, at least to me, that we are a nation of spoken words. What I mean by that is that it is hard for us (for me) to keep my mouth shut. It’s almost like I/we are afraid of dead air. Tragically, when words are spoken it is more often than not words better left unsaid. A couple of Proverbs I’ve read recently are reminding me of the wisdom and prudence of keeping quiet, or at least of measuring my words before I speak.

To read the rest please click here or check out my other blog, LivingintheShadow.  Living in the Shadow is a daily devotion I write from what I am reading or from Scripture. Hopefully always challenging and equally uplifting. I’d love to have you join the email list if you’d like to.

CQD

Friday, March 8th, 2019

There are a number of international calls for disaster on the sea. The Germans used SOE. The Italians used SSSDDD. Marconi, who was a leader in wireless technology, proposed CQD, which actually came from an earlier one “CQ” and by adding the “D” for distress it was to represent extreme danger. According to him the letters meant absolutely nothing. In 1906 it was proposed by the second International Radio Telegraphic Conference that the letters “SOS” be adopted. Not because it means “Save our Souls” or “Save our Ship” but because of the ease to transmit- 3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots. By 1908 it had been accepted by all except the United States.

That all changed April 14, 1912 when Titanic sunk. Senior operator Jack Phillips was using CQD when junior operator Harold Bride joked to Phillips that he ought to use the new one (SOS) because it might be the last chance to use it. Sadly, it was because Phillips never left his station until there was no more power. By then all the lifeboats were gone.

Psalm 51 as a whole is a powerful psalm of sin and rescue. That was last week’s message. This week’s message takes it further and finishes it as this psalm becomes a psalm of renewal.  I’ll be concentrating on verses 10-19 this week after a brief review of last week’s lesson of grace and mercy.

I’d appreciate your prayers for us this week. Attendance may be slim due to Spring Break for our local school system, but I’m convinced someone there will need to hear its message.