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LeafTurning

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

The new year is about here and there will be a lot of talk about “turning over a new leaf.” I personally hope my life is more exciting than a leaf blowing in the wind.  🙂  Every year I post this video and want to do that again.  It’s one of those “traditions” you know? Besides, I have a much more important one to show later so I want to get the frivolous out of the way.  Click here to see the video.

I have never been one to go over the past year and relive good and bad memories. I came to realize that I couldn’t change what happened so why do that? In some cases it would be like torturing myself and in other cases it might be hard not to gloat or “wish for again.” I believe there are lessons to be learned if I look, but too much reflection can sometimes be detrimental. So I don’t take longing looks at the past.

I also take longing looks at the future. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” I take that to mean not to worry about tomorrow. Why should I when I can’t change things anyway? I have no control over them. But I know the ONE who does. 2019 is going to happen (unless Jesus returns first) so I can only prepare myself the best way I know how: spiritually.

I’m not a resolution-setter.  (Nor am I an Irish one). 🙂  I basically have one idea: How can I live my life with grace and honor God doing it? After spending two years going through New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp and all of 2018 blogging about it at Be Transformed, my heart and eyes have been opened and softened. The journey was not always easy. It was time-consuming and at times, inconvenient. But daily blogging was a discipline I am glad I did. My next attempt will be called Living in the Shadow and will take the place of Be Transformed in name and content only. It will be hosted on the same site but I do not plan on posting every day. I’m thinking maybe 2-3 days a week. I’ll tell you more when it gets underway.

But I want to close this post and 2018 with a song that has become a favorite and will be my focus for 2019. I hope you will join me in making this a reality.  Click here to listen to the song.

HAVE A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE END TO YOUR 2018 AND  A STELLAR BEGINNING TO YOUR 2019.

Shining

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Well…happy after Christmas.  I’m guessing for you several things are true:

  • The Christmas “glow” is over.
  • A new year faces us in a few short days.

There are those who have already taken down their lights or have stopped turning them on at night. Leaving them up because of frigid weather is not an excuse around here lately. I rode 17.6 miles in 40+ degree weather yesterday (Wednesday).  But for most the season is over so why prolong it?

Others hold onto Christmas as long as they can.  I once read of a family who kept Christmas lights burning all the way through March because their son was to return home from the war and they wanted him to be able to celebrate his favorite holiday as though he never missed it.

But whether lights stay up or stay off is not the point my sermon Sunday. One of the beautiful things about the Christmas story is that it doesn’t offer just my past forgiveness and future hope, but everything I need right here, right now. And I’m not talking about My Best Life Now g-a-r-b-a-g-e.  2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” How is it that the people to whom Peter was writing to were immersed in suffering and yet it also says God has given them all they need? I will be trying to answer that question this Sunday.

Along with that I am going to briefly mention the 5 things God has given us the power to break free from:

  1. Fear
  2. Regret
  3. Discouragement
  4. Denial
  5. Desire for control

Peter finishes his thoughts with these words: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”  Prayers are appreciated as always. And thanks.

Reasons

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I have said this before and I’m sure will say it again (as I will now): I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. That’s not a put down; it’s reality. I realized early on that I was not without the ability to learn, i.e. stupid or dense, but I also realized I was not one who could probe deeply into subjects. Math and science, for example, have always been challenges for me. Advanced Biology was a required course chore. Chemistry was a train wreck. When it comes to spiritual things I have often taken a rather simple approach to things: “God said it; that settles it; therefore, I believe it.”  I am not into the finer details of things. That does go along somewhat with my Sanguine personality, but in matters of faith, I’m content to trust. So when I come upon something which is so good I want to share it, then believe me when I say I was touched by it.

I recently read an article by a woman named Rebecca McLaughlin (whom I have never heard of) entitled 4 Reasons to Believe in the Christmas Miracle.  I’m going to list those four reasons but I will also include the link so you can read the whole article yourself. So here is the recap. The link will be at the end.

  1. Miracles aren’t hard for God.
  2. Miracles aren’t ruled out by science.
  3. The gospels aren’t mythologized.
  4. Forgiveness is the greater miracle.

This post was written because as Rebecca was reading the Christmas story to her daughter, she said she didn’t believe in the angel visitation. To read more about this here is the link. I’d encourage you to read it in its entirety. You’ll be glad you did.

I would like to hear your thoughts if you have any.

Christmas’18#2

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

In keeping with my stated intention in my last post, I’d like to pass along several thoughts/quotes I found in my reading.  I  hope these will give you some “thought” about this Christmas season.

Christmas is not simply about a birth but about a coming.  Tim Keller in Hidden Christmas

God had planned for the arrival of His Son. Like any good writer, he prepared His people with a great back story. We now call that back story the Old Testament. As you read the OT you can’t help but see how God was preparing the people of Israel for the coming Messiah.

Here is a good one for you that really hits on the lack of Biblical truth in the church and also hits at the seemingly endless “psychological/mind/feel good” so-called preachers in today’s culture.

THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS, NOT GOOD ADVICE.

The story of Jesus, the Gospel story, does not begin with “Once upon a time in a far away place…” Fairy tales begin that way. Star Wars begins that way (so I’ve been told). But not the Gospel message. Matthew 1 contains the genealogy of Jesus. It starts out by saying, “This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Not “Once upon a time in a very far away town called Bethlehem…”

People don’t need good advice. Good advice will not lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. People need Jesus and the salvation He offers.

There you have it. A couple thoughts for your Christmas thoughts. What do you think?

Satisfaction

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

There are a lot of things which bring us satisfaction. Some are not worth it; some are. Some are temporary; some are eternal. Some eat us alive; some give us life. As I see it, satisfaction can largely depend on your motives and expected results.

This past Thursday I was satisfied. In case you were born under a rock, Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. You know…eat till you drop. Eat till your buttons pop. Eat till you vow you will not eat again all day. Okay, at least until your next meal at another relative’s house or during the game (if you watch them).

Thursday for us was an absolutely beautiful day. The past few years it has been so frigid we had popsicles come inside after standing outside with a sign announcing our Thanksgiving Lunch for the community. But not this year! It turned out to be in the 50s and sunny.  It was a great day for a bike ride…I mean…a Thanksgiving lunch.  My day started early with my Quiet Time of Thanksgiving to the God who blesses me more than I deserve. Jo & I made our way to the local Lion’s Club where we hold the lunch. We started there when we didn’t have a building of our own and now that our building is sort of outside of town, we still use the LC for accessibility. We had a local lady who wanted to make pies for us so we arrived early to meet her. Sarah made 5 pies and some sugar cookies. Good thing I’m not a pumpkin, apple cinnamon, or pecan pie eater!  🙂  Eventually, others started arriving and preparations were underway.

I’m in charge of deliveries. I don’ t make them. I have men and women who do. So once people start coming I start humming. We have it down to a system now which works pretty well. And I had plenty of people who were more than eager to help in delivering the meals to whatever address I gave them, even some which were a 20-25 minute drive.

I know you don’t particularly want to hear those kinds of things. If you are like me you are saying, “Get with the program Bill! How many meals did you deliver? How many people did you serve in house?” I’m glad you and I think alike. Last year we delivered about 50 meals and served 15-20 in house. This year we blew the doors off both those numbers.

We delivered over 70 meals (not counting all the leftovers we took to the EMT’s).

We served over 30 meals to people who just wanted to come in and sit down to a Thanksgiving meal.

Now you can see why I am satisfied. Contented. Fulfilled. We helped a lot of people that day. We expect nothing back from them. But we are the ones who benefit by giving. I think Jesus was onto something when He said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  🙂  I know, in spite of how tired I was after all the lifting and carting before and after, there was a sense of A-a-a-a-a-a-h inside.

Two things hit me:

  1. We are going to turn right around and do a Christmas breakfast from 7-9:00 on Christmas morning.
  2. Neither Jo nor I brought any turkey or dressing or anything home.  I didn’t need the turkey to induce a nap. It just happened.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day. I sure did.

AWE

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

The idea of worship is nothing new. If we are speaking about the Bible it is a theme which dominates the pages. In Genesis, for example, we discover the Fall came when Adam and Eve failed to worship God by obeying the one command God gave. In Revelation we learn that all of history culminates in a scene of eternal worship in the presence of a loving God.

But we also find worship elsewhere. We live in a worshiping culture. The latest sports star. Musician. Author. Preacher. The list seems endless.

Jesus knew this was an issue in Mark 12:29-30: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

This will be final sermon of the Staking Your Claim series.  I’m not sure there is a better way to end a series talking about the non-negotiables of our faith than to talk about worship. If worship is honor and adoration directed to God, then it must be something we cannot do without. Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best:

“He…who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” 

I would appreciate your prayers for me and for us this weekend. In a way, we will be refocusing our thoughts from Thanksgiving to Christmas-from gratitude to awe.

Cisterns

Monday, November 19th, 2018

One of the most convicting passages of Scripture is the one found in Jeremiah 2, especially verse 13: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

In all honesty, I know Jeremiah could have written that about me in 2018.

To read more of this devotion please check out my other site, Be Transformed.

With Thanksgiving on the very close horizon, I am going to be taking a break for the rest of the week on posting a blog. The short week plus trying to cram multiple things into 3 days means a very wise use of my time. I will be back on Friday for my weekend post on my upcoming sermon series, Shedding Light on Christmas.

Thanks for being a reader of my ramblings. I appreciate each one of you. Take time this week to do what the old song tells us to do: “Count your many blessings name them one by one.” May the whole idea of gratitude fill your heart this week and always.

HYMNS

Friday, November 16th, 2018

I am not preaching this weekend. My brother, Rob, will be here to sing and preach. So, I decided I would do something that I hope will set your heart right.

Worship is often confined to what happens on Sunday morning at “church.” I’m a firm believer though that worship is 24/7. However, focusing on the time we gather together on Sunday morning is what I’d like to do in this post. We gather. We sing. We partake of the Lord’s Supper. We give our tithes and offerings. We preach. (Okay…I preach). 🙂  But chances are when we talk about worship to the everyday attender most will point to the singing.

Sunday morning singing has gone through several time warps. It used to be it was all hymns. (I still love Great is Thy Faithfulness and Holy, Holy, Holy and some others like them). Then a few spiritual songs were added (think I’ll Fly Away or When We All Get to Heaven). The Jesus Movement brought in a whole new type of song, both worship songs but also “feel good about me” songs. The evolution of those types of songs has been slow but eventually we morphed into a band, a group of singers, guitarists, drummers, and (choke choke) light shows, smoke machines, and theatrics. Some have even introduced “secular” songs into a worship set (Like the church that played Highway to Hell to introduce their Easter service one time).  We now have songs that last 5-7 minutes due to repetition of verses and choruses. And, of course, there is the resident “jump around and act crazy” songs mistakenly substituted for and called worship. Now…please understand I love some of the music played. I like a beat, even a rockier kind. But there is a point of saturation.

Enter a new breed and new wave of hymns. Yep, that’s right hymns. I never thought I’d be saying it but I welcome it. Not going back to singing the old ones that drone on, but new ones which highlight God the Father and Jesus the Son in meaningful, heart-touching words and music. I’ve come across some of the “new” hymns lately by a church out of Australia (no not Hillsong). The group is called CityAlight. I have been touched by their music and lyrics. You know I have been if I tell you I have been to the Y the past two days and have had them in my ears. I’d encourage you to listen to them on your own but I would like to highlight a few songs that have touched me deeply.  No comment will be made by me. I’d like you to listen and then let me know what you think. I’m encouraging our Worship Team to pursue learning some of this music.

First, this was the first one I ever heard by them.

Second, this one is a cry of my heart.

Third, I heard this one today and it jolted me.

Fourth, this one is for good measure.  🙂

I hope you will check out more of their music. I believe you will be blessed beyond measure.  Have a great weekend of worship! Enjoy being in the Father’s presence.

Hope

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

God placed his unshakable love on me.

Let that sink in for a minute or two. That sounds so inviting. So settling. So solid. Especially in today’s world when everything seem so unsettled, so much in an upheaval, it is good to know there is a constant. That constant is Jesus. That constant is the solid hope He gives.

I like what Tripp says: “Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus.”

For the rest of my post on HOPE see my post here on my other blog.

Difference

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

We often hear people talking about “making a difference.” Their desire to make a difference will have one of two affects. One, they will think about it; stew over it; lament over the state of things; cry over it; even speak about it; but do nothing about it!

There are also those who want to make a difference and it will change them. No longer satisfied to sit on the sidelines, they will become advocates and fight for something.

That is not a political statement. I despise politics-government, home, church, sports, and anywhere else where there are people who think they can throw their weight around and get what think is theirs. Even if it means lying, cheating, slandering, gossiping, and a host of other ugly things.

Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 was not a political statement. Sheep on the right; goats on the left. Nope, not a political statement whatsoever. But it was a statement pertaining to following Jesus by caring for others. You have seen them: the hungry, naked, thirsty, lonely, in prison, homeless.  Making a difference in their lives is what Jesus is talking about. I asked a question Sunday: How do I make a difference?  How do I show compassion? I answered it this way:

Allow our heart to break.  Someone once said, “Break my heart with the things that break the heart of God.”  Melinda Gates, Bill’s wife, once said, “If you want to make a difference, you have to let your heart break.”

Ask God for a mission. Many missions are started because of personal experience. I’ve dreamed for years of opening a home for abused or “lost” woman. Our little community does not have the sex trafficking issue a big city does (at least that I know of) but alcohol and opioids have played havoc with families. Seems like daily I read of another bust or broken home and children finding their way to DCS. Scary thought that.

Making a difference starts with me. With you. And one person at a time. But we have to start.