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Presence

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

I’m going to be honest…I have no idea where I am going to go with this post. I think you will see why. I do have a point but getting there might be like “going ’round Robin Hood’s barn” as we used to say (back in them old days). 🙂

I’ve been reading Skye Jethani’s book Immeasurable about the soul of Church, Inc. I’ve written two other posts which have flowed out of it. You can read them here and here. But something I read just today really stuck with me and I don’t know what the solution is. Let me explain.

When I was a young pastor I was told visit, visit, visit. I often found myself out every afternoon and many evenings visiting with people from the church. So much so I often neglected my office time and even my family (at night especially).  It wasn’t unusual to be driving by someone’s house and saying, “Oh, I haven’t seen them in a while. I’ll swing in for a few moments.” So I would…whether the spouse was there or not. But as Bob Dylan sang so eloquently: “the times they are a changin’.”  It was no longer kosher (translated: acceptable or safe) to just drop by to see someone, especially if they were a member of the opposite sex. So I found myself tied more and more to my office. Studying. Napping. Reading. Napping. “Counseling” (Can an untrained pastor really do this? But that’s another topic for another time). But even the latter had to be done a certain way. Ryan and I have set a policy that we will not be in the church building; at a meal; in a car; or any setting with a female who is not our wife without someone else in the building or with us.

Then I read this in Skye’s book: “The antidote to popularity-based authority is the quiet power of pastoral presence.” (p.138)  His point in the chapter is many people will listen to someone who is popular (i.e. TV/radio hucksters and some legitimate speakers) before they will listen to their own pastor. It is called platform. And their platform is bigger than most local pastors. Definitely mine. But that raises a huge question: how do I/any pastor do the pastoral presence thing and still be cognizant of the moral perception of others?

What do you think?

Heart

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Someone has said, “A wise man learns by the experience of others. An ordinary man learns by his own experience. A fool learns by nobody’s experience.”

The two characters in the movie Chariots of Fire were Eric Liddell and Harold Abram. Both were passionate about running, but in different ways. Abram runs in order to prove something; he is a man whose life is motivated by ought, by duty, by law. Liddell runs because as he says, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.” There was a young lady here who was feeling a lot of pressure when she was running. It was taking the fun out of it for her. I saddled up to her before a race and told her the story of Liddell. Then I looked at her and said, “Run well and feel God’s pleasure.”

You see…it is true what Liddell says. When asked where his power comes from to see the race to the end, he simply said, “It comes from within.”

One of the most familiar verses in Proverbs is 4:23: “Keep your heart will all vigilance (diligence), for from it flow the springs of life.” My purpose this Sunday is to probe what that verse means, but in particular the whole idea of what is the heart? In this sermon Proverbs will go from theorizing to probing. Very pointed. Very convicting. Perhaps C.S.Lewis says it best: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slime because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Your prayers would be much appreciated.

Lonely???

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Back in the 1970s a group which seemed totally out of left field made an impact on the music world. In a world of heavy and hard music came a threesome who played mostly acoustic music. No blaring guitar riffs which went on and on. No double kick bass on the drums. No speed drumming. No thumping bass guitar beating out a low end rhythm and sound. Even some of the lyrics were strange or seemingly incomplete/incoherent:

“I’ve been to a desert on a horse with no name it felt good to be out of the rain.” Some speculated it was about heroin.

“Oz never did give nothing to the tin man that he didn’t, didn’t already have/ And  cause never was the reason for the tropic of Sir Galahad.” Say what?

Others were fun songs. Ventura Highway. Muskrat Love.

Some were philosophical. “Don’t cross the river if you can’t swim the tide.” Makes sense to me.

But there was one which struck a chord for many. It is my song for the week. The late Dan Peek, was a member of America for years but left all the fame and fortune behind to follow Jesus.  I still have his vinyl album called “All Things are Possible,” his first release to the Christian market. Same signature sound. Smooth. Acoustic. Mellow. But the one song America did is the one I’m highlighting this week. I’ve got Dan’s music (as well as America’s) on my Spotify playlist and this song came buzzing by me this week. I’m going to put Dan’s version first here and then America’s version here. You can hear the difference because Dan found the answer.

WalkingPartner

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

A newspaper cartoon showed a car balancing precariously over the edge of a cliff, with an embarrassed husband at the wheel and his disgusted wife sitting next to him. Meekly, he says to his wife, “Honey, there’s got to be a lesson here somewhere.”

There’s a lesson alright: The only safe way to end up at the right destination is to choose the right road.

About two years ago I was taking one of our young men to the airport. I had only been on the road one time and so I turned left on what I thought was the right road, came to a “T” that I remembered, turned right and eventually drove onto a dirt road surrounded by overgrown brush. “Wrong way,” I said. Turned around and went the right way.  My initial left turn was one road too late.

Being on the right path is so important. But it starts with choosing the right path. We often hear of hikers who got lost or even lost their lives because they got off the beaten path and wandered away. That often happens in our spiritual lives. The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom…filled with wisdom…a good place to start. This Sunday my sermon will be divided like this:

  1. Wisdom Protects Your Path (chapter 2)
  2. Wisdom Directs Your Path (chapter 3)
  3. Wisdom Perfects Your Path (4:1-19)

I will be stressing how important it is to choose the right walking partner and the right path. Your prayers would be much appreciated.

Listen

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Just listen.

https://youtu.be/sIaT8Jl2zpI

I failed to post a song yesterday. Got busy. Watched Incredibles 2 with Jo (great movie. Laughed a lot).  Prayed for what to write or say.

N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

Then I remembered a song while returning from a chiropractor appointment that Jo played for me while we were coming back from Ohio this past Saturday. I couldn’t remember what it was…the name…the words. All I remember is the tears that formed in my eyes as I listened.

So I found it. And I want to share it. Profound. Insightful. Probing. Truth.

So listen…just listen…with an open mind and heart. I did.  (I’m not really this singer’s biggest fan. I like my music rockier). May this song be a light for you today and for you this week.

TheRoad

Friday, July 27th, 2018

For anyone who knows me there is one movie I have a real problem with. No, it is not immoral. No, it is not (that I know of) terribly unbiblical. I’m pretty sure the PC police will find something wrong with it somewhere, if they haven’t already done so.  I. just. don’t. like. it. I suppose that makes me unAmerican. But that’s the facts. What movie? Here’s my illustration…and your hint:

When Dorothy’s house landed in Munchkin Land, killing the Wicked Witch of the North and throwing all the Munchkins into a tizzy of a celebration, all Dorothy wanted to know was, “How do I get home?” The Munchkins didn’t know. They told her she would need to go to Oz and ask the wizard. She was told to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

There was only one road to Oz. It began right there in Munchkin Land, where Dorothy’s house had landed, and looked like a spiral until it ended up in Oz. To stay on that road would take her to her destination, the Wizard of Oz, fake though he was. To get off that road led everywhere but Oz.

The question of choice has always been a discussion point in religious circles. I won’t be talking about that Sunday morning. What I will be preaching about is that life is a series of choices-some we make are wise and some we make are rather foolish. The choice we make determines our path; the path we choose influences our choices. My Scripture this Sunday is Proverbs 1:8-30. Which path will you choose to trek on?

Your prayers would be appreciated.

GRACE

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

I recently shared this on my other blog, Be Transformed, and decided it needed to be “heard” by more. It had so much power, so much oomph, that I could not pass it by. I wrote it in my journal so I would have it, then used it in my post on Be Transformed.

My worst days are never so bad that I am beyond the reach of His grace. And my best days are never so good that I am beyond the need of God’s grace. Every day should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone. Jerry Bridges

WOW! Is that good or what?

I’m ashamed to admit this but there are times I take grace for granted. Not the “I can sin because I know God will forgive me” taking for granted. I just forget it is there for me. Days are tough and I forget because I am preoccupied. Days are good and I forget because I’m not hurting.

So…let’s make a vow together to live each day in grace. Up or down…Grace.

My song this week is from a man who knows grace…big time.  It is very upbeat and is a great way to start and then continue your week. Here’s your song for the week.

Pursuit

Friday, July 20th, 2018

In 1991 a series of books was started which has, in some way, revolutionized how we see things.  The book was DOS for Dummies. Amazon has a listing of over 20,000 books in the series. Opera for Dummies (as if…). Betting on Horses for Dummies (can you say I don’t stand a chance?). Potty Training for Dummies. Snort for Dummies (Snort is a security system). How scary would it be for you to pick your car or truck at the mechanics and on his workbench is Car Repair for Dummies? They even have Sex for Dummies.

Why the outrageous number of books? Because people are looking for answers. We are a do-it-yourself generation in many ways. For 20 years the Got Milk? ad campaign was seen in a variety of ways with different celebrities. It was retired in 2014. As you can see, my next sermon series which starts this Sunday is Got Wisdom? and as you can probably guess I will be in the book of Proverbs through the end of September.

This week I’ll define what wisdom is and then show how we can pursue wisdom. I’ll be in Proverbs 1:1-7 if you care to follow along. I invite you to listen to the podcast at the church’s website if you’d like.  Even if you don’t, prayers would be appreciated.

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to post more pictures of our remodel. I’m going to do that next week as a Before/After post. (I know. Now you wait with bated breath).

Surrender

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

I spoke today about Joshua’s last words to the people of Israel before “he went the way of all men.” (23: 14) Included in his last words is the very familiar challenge of 24:15:

CHOOSE THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE

That phrase is more, and has to be more, than a cutesy little plaque we put on our living room wall or on the door which enters our home. I found something as I was studying which I never knew before.  The Hebrew construction of this verse (and I know no Hebrew so I take it the scholars are right) indicates what Joshua is saying is “I have chosen; I am choosing; and will go on choosing.”

Is that not cool or what?

That sort of lays to rest the cutesy plaque. That also puts to rest that coming to Jesus is a one-time deal. It is more than saying a prayer; signing on the dotted line; being baptized; making a public confession or any other form of admission to following Jesus. The life of following Jesus is one of surrender.

My video today is here. The lyrics are pretty clear as you listen. May it be your anthem for this week.

Words

Friday, July 13th, 2018

As in Last Words…

Last words are important. The last words I remember my father saying were that “I was a friend of the family.” His dementia had robbed him of knowing who I was because the last time I saw him he did not know who I was at all.

I remember the last words of Dan. After resisting the call to give his life to Christ, he eventually found himself in a tent of oxygen and dying. He finally allowed me to share Christ with him and even though he was unable to talk (or barely open his eyes), he squeezed my hand to let me know he had prayed to accept Christ. Then there was Jim.  He had constantly turned down any invitation to follow Jesus (but did go to church with his wife upon occasion).  He took a “shine” to me, even though they attended another church. While in the hospital he was unable to talk anymore and every time I would go to see him tons of family were around. So I finally wrote it all down, had his wife read it to him, and then he had her sign his name because he was unable to. A day or two later he entered eternity.

Last words can be done is so many ways. Vocally. Squeezing a hand. Signing a name. Blinking eyes. All are last words. I finish my series from Joshua this Sunday with Joshua’s last words to the people of Israel. To sum up his words I would put it this way:

REMEMBER THE PAST. DON’T STAY THERE. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE.