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Bucket

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Once a month I read to Mrs. Lee’s Kindergarten class for what is called Real Men Read. There are a number of men in Owen County and Monroe County (and perhaps others) who go into a class to read to kindergarten students. This is my 3rd year now for taking part and I honestly believe that I receive more than the students do. Mrs. Lee does a wonderful job with the children and has them prepared for my visit. After the first year I requested the children wear name tags so I can call them by name. She willingly obliged.

But that is not why I am writing this post…although Mrs. Lee and her assistant deserve a lot of praise. It was the book I just read that I want to write about.

The name of the book was How Full is Your Bucket? It was a delightful book about a young boy named Felix whose grandfather told him that everyone has a bucket.  For every kind word said to them, a drop of water goes into their bucket. For any kind thing they say or do for someone else, water drops into their bucket but also into the one who gives the compliment. It works sort of like the old “change in the pocket” idea.

One day Felix was having a bad day and his bucket was about empty. His sister was not nice. He reached for and dropped a box of cereal. His mother yelled at him. A school bully was mean.  He was wiped out. Then came a class where the teacher praised him for his essay. A drop of water went into his bucket. The class loved his story-laughing and clapping when it was done. More water. Another student said something nice to him. Drop.  Soon Felix was complimenting people and putting water in their bucket, but also in his.  He came home with a full bucket. He even put water in his sister’s bucket by letting her build a tower out of his blocks.

The implications should be easy to see. Just one from me: encouragement goes a long way. Not only do we brighten someone else’s day, but we shine some light on our own. While we are putting drops of water in another’s bucket, we are also adding to our own.

I can attest to that. One of the most thrilling parts of my month is my visit to Mrs. Lee’s class to read. They are fun to interact with (I’m sure they can be pistols as well), and certainly fun to read to. It makes my heart feel good to walk into class and hear, “Hi Mr. Bill!”

How much do you add to someone’s bucket?

HolyWhat?

Friday, October 19th, 2018

I come from a tradition where talk of the Holy Spirit was almost nil. He was hush-hush. I’m not sure if that was because of ignorance or it was because of fear. My first exposure to someone raising their hands in worship (something I had never been exposed to but had read about) was at a youth conference I was attending. The worship leader was leading us in a song when several around me raised their hands. I kid you not: I broke out in a cold sweat wondering what was next.

I survived. Now I are one (as they say). But seriously, why was that even as issue? Why are there still people today who will not raise their hands because of a “theological problem” with it?  More importantly: why are we so closed off to that type of expression to the praise and glory of God?

There is an even greater problem underlying many churches and pastors today. We are afraid.  We are afraid to allow any semblance of emotion to be expressed. I’m not talking about excess. I’m not talking about the whooping and hollering and the devil-inspired jerking, rolling around on the floor, and barking like a dog we hear about. That is not godly. But we do have an elephant in the room. You see…there are two extremes (as I see it). Some pursue experience in the Spirit apart from the Word.  They listen for voices or seek “signs” from God. They seem to be always talking about what God “said to them.” At the other extreme is the one who seeks to know and obey the Word without any interaction with, or real dependence on, the Spirit. These people are often void of emotion and can become legalistic in their thinking.

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Jesus, Continued. I borrowed the title from a book I read several year ago.  As you might have guessed, the sermon is on the Holy Spirit. I’d appreciate your prayers for this message and those who listen. And, of course, the one who is bringing it. 🙂

Accident?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Okay so I didn’t quite tell the truth. I said in this post that I would post once more this week. But I wasn’t counting on reading something that “rang a bell” in my head. I wanted to blog about it before it left my thoughts (which happens a lot when you get older! 🙂 ).

I’m reading Therefore I Have Hope by Cameron Cole. His 3 year old son died unexpectedly one evening while sleeping. He is writing about his journey and what he has learned. One of the things people and pastors say is “God had nothing to do with your son/daughter/mother/father’s death.”  One woman was told that and said to the chaplain: “Don’t tell me that! You take away my only hope.”

Mr. Cole is of the opinion that, even though it is hard to see, God was involved in his son’s death. Why? God is sovereign and all-knowing. To say He wasn’t is to deny those two Biblical truths. He finished his chapter on Providence with these words:

My trial is not a random accident. Nothing comes into my life but through God’s perfect discretion. God remains in control of all circumstances. He has a hand in my painful circumstances, which means that his hand can extend to redeem my life. God is good. The evil in this world and the suffering in my circumstances do not represent his character. The perfectly kind and loving person, Jesus Christ, is the very image of the character of God. The cross reassures me of his love and sovereignty. I can trust him, knowing that he is fully good and fully in control.  (p.100)

As hard as it is to accept the truth that God is involved, it is hard to argue with what Mr. Cole has written. I can’t. I have decided I will never again say God is not aware or involved in what has happened. He does not cause evil  (James 1:13) but He is there. What are your thoughts?

Discipline

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Discipline. I didn’t like it as a child; I don’t like it as an adult. Even though I know why and understand it better, that does not mean I like it any better. Hebrews is very clear as to why God disciplines us: “…but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness, for the moment all discipline seems painful than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

For the rest of my thoughts on this topic, please check out my other blog here.

You might be thinking, “Boy. Bill sure took the easy way out today.” Well…yes and no. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is Braden’s (our grandson) 12th birthday. Since we are unable to get there, but more importantly we would barely get to see him due to football practice tomorrow night and school on Thursday, we couldn’t see much sense in driving 4 hours for an hour peek at him. But he is off school on Friday so we plan to leave Thursday and spend the whole day with him on Friday then return Saturday morning.

So with the short week and a very busy 3 days, my priorities have to shift some to getting things done among the visits I have with various people Monday through Wednesday. My plan is to post one more time this week (the weekend) and then hopefully find my life back to normal…whatever that is. 🙂

Have a great rest of the week!

TheRock

Friday, October 12th, 2018

No…this sermon is not about the “actor”  or any of his movies. It is about the One who is The Rock.  Do you remember ever reading or hearing this from many moons ago?

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

That is just part of the poem/story told about Jesus. It is amazing how much Jesus is mentioned in our culture, but not necessarily out of respect. He’s in the world of fashion. (Who could forget the infamous “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts many celebrities wore?) He shows up in movies. He shows up in music, both good and bad. He shows up at award shows (again both good and bad).  He shows up in the world of sports.  He shows up in the religions of the world (Don’t get me started on that!).

I recently finished reading Superheroes Can’t Save You by Todd Miles ( a great book where he took different superheroes and related it to how Jesus is perceived by many).  Todd wrote this after talking about his stagnant spiritual life which came to life while a student at Oregon State University:

Jesus Christ is the most compelling, interesting, and remarkable person who ever lived.  He is exactly who he claimed to be, precisely who the Bible teaches that he is-God in the flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (p.3)

Who Jesus is, according to the Bible, is a non-negotiable. That is where I choose to Stake My Claim this Sunday. If you live around here, please join us. If not, you can listen via podcast. In any case, please pray for me and for the folks this coming Sunday.  Thanks.

Mondaysurprise

Monday, October 8th, 2018

I walked into my office this morning and saw this:

There were actually more under my desk and behind my chair. All told there were probably 20-24 balloons just laying around in my office. Somehow I think the Great Instigator aka former Youth Pastor or Youth Pastor’s wife allowed the teens to go into my office. Actually, I leave my door open during the day so he wouldn’t have had to let them in but I’m suspecting he or his wife may have been behind it.  I was excited though. It actually went with my office decor i.e. Hi-viz lime green bicycle sitting in my office.  (I leave from the office during my lunchtime ride so I just leave my bike here).

What’s the occasion? Well…other than being teenagers (whom I may or may not bug from time to time), tomorrow (Tuesday) is my 66th birthday.  I’d like to think they love me so much this is their way of showing it.  Ice cream would have been much better but then again, it would have left quite a mess. So, I guess the balloons will suffice. 🙂

Ryan & Hope do a superb job with the kids (all ages).  They love them unconditionally. They listen to them. They laugh with them. They go places with them. Ryan visits them at school during lunch time. They even get into trouble with them. AHEM! But he is also teaching them a servant’s heart. This week they are on Fall Break and two of the days will be spent serving.  Wednesday is an all-day event at IDES in Indianapolis.  They will be paying for and packing meals for disaster relief.  They have a little fun afterwards by going to some climbing wall and adventure place. Friday they will be serving in the community after working some around the church building.  Ryan and Hope have servant’s hearts and I’m glad to see they are trying to teach and instill that in our teens.

And what better song for this occasion can there be than this one? Trust me though when I say it was not one of my favorites as a teenager.

So…how is/was your Monday?

 

BigGod

Friday, October 5th, 2018

If there was ever a question asked that has yet to find a complete and correct answer it would be the “Why?” question. I seriously doubt there a person on this planet who has not asked that question sometime in their life.  As I was studying for this first sermon in my new series Staking Your Claim I ran across this quote:

A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped.  Evelyn Underhill

That statement blew me away. I began to think, “Who am I to question God?” Another question: “Who am I to think God owes me an explanation for His dealings?”

Years ago I read a small little book with a big message: Your God is Too Small by J.B.Philipps. I have come to the conclusion that we in the American church have sort of “dumbed down” God. We may have not done it intentionally. I don’t think we purposely said, “I think I’m going to put God in a box and He will not operate outside of it.” I have not done what Thomas Jefferson did, i.e. cut out of my Bible parts I don’t agree with or believe in. I have never called God my “buddy” or “my homeboy.”

But if we diminish God in any way, such a God cannot sustain faith. You see…what we think about God determines everything else in our lives: what we value, what we pursue, and how passionately we pursue it.

That is why I have entitled my sermon The Bigness of God. Grasping that God is a being of unfathomable magnitude, wisdom, and goodness is one of the non-negotiables of having a living, vital faith.  Your prayers would be appreciated.

Tips#4

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

I apologize. I haven’t been as energetic posting this week as I had planned. I wanted to give a few days for the RoadID video of me and Jo to hopefully find some traction but then life hit and has a way of interrupting. I’m sure you know what I mean so I won’t belabor that point. I’d like to continue my series on “Whatever You Do, Don’t Do These Things.” You can read the previous 3 “Tips” posts here, here, and here.

#8- Don’t Play the Avoidance Game.  One of the most common reasons people don’t respond to a friend or person in need is fear. That’s right. Fear. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of not knowing what to say. So they say nothing. Not only do they not say anything but they also avoid the whole situation.  They ignore the person’s pain completely. And in all honesty, that is sometimes more hurtful than truly trying to be a caring friend and saying the wrong thing or being tongue-tied. Not saying or doing anything or staying away can cut deeply.  Don’t stay away!

#9- Don’t Pledge General Help. “If there is anything I can do let me know.” “If you need me give me a call.” I don’t know how many times I have heard this said by some well-wisher at a funeral. I know they mean well but I have yet to find someone calling someone and saying, “You know. It’s been a hectic two weeks with mom being sick and then having her funeral last week. I really could stand to have my house cleaned. You said I could call you for anything. I’d like to ask for your help.” So be careful of pledging general help. Now…offering specific things like maybe babysitting or taking food or “running interference” is more like it.

#10- Don’t Condemn Them. The last time I looked we were not God. To pronounce God’s judgment on someone or to maybe toss out a false and helpful tidbit is uncalled for. I’m thinking of Job’s so-called friends right now: “What secret sin are you hiding?” “What are you doing that God is trying to get you to stop?” “Maybe He is trying to get you to stop smoking or (fill in the blank).” Do you remember the time in Jesus’ ministry when the disciples asked, “Who sinned? Him or his parents”? The truth is we have no idea what God is doing so why pretend to? Worse yet, why accuse? We do live in a broken world so death and suffering is part and parcel of it. But don’t condemn.

I hope these posts have been helpful to you. I was mindful of them as I visited in the hospital yesterday, especially since I was shy of details. May they help you be a better “minister” to hurting people.

Tips#3

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

I’ve been addressing a very touchy subject which really affects those who are struggling with pain and suffering. What sometimes happens is well-meaning people saying stupid ignorant things for various reasons. I’ve been using a book by Dave Furman called Being There as a reference.  You can check out the two previous posts on this subject here and here.  My summary of the first two posts of “Whatever You Do, Don’t Do These Things” is below. For a fuller discussion please check out the links to the previous posts.

#1- Don’t Be the Fix-it Person

#2- Don’t Play the Comparison Game

#3- Don’t Make It Their Identity

#4- Don’t Promise Deliverance Now

#5- Don’t Encourage Them to Just “Move On”

#6- Don’t Bring on the Inquisition.  The last thing a person suffering needs is the 3rd degree. When I was in the ER hallway for 8 hours following my bike wreck, I had some come by to see if I was okay. I was so grateful they didn’t give me or Jo the 3rd degree. Was it a car? Where was it at? Did he go into a ditch? All sorts of scenarios went through peoples’ minds I’m sure, but they were gracious enough and didn’t ask. Since I was somewhat out of it from time to time they were also wise enough not to text my phone.  If you find yourself in a visiting situation, this is not the time to “play Job’s friends” and ask questions like “Was it his/her fault?” If you are at a funeral home, don’t go asking if the person was close to the deceased person. When at a loss for words the best thing to say may be, “I just want you to know I love you and am praying for you.” The Bible says to “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”  So…do you really think I wanted to hear questions?

#7- Don’t Be Hyperspiritual.  I’ve heard this. You have too. Sadly, and to my horror, I’m sure I have even said it.  Can you imagine how insensitive it is to go up to someone who has just lost a baby or a father or a (fill in the blank) and say, “Praise the Lord! They are in heaven!” Or “Praise the Lord no more pain!” It is one thing to agree with the grieving person who might say that, but to offer it? WOW! That is the height of insensitivity. How about the cliches we use: “Look on the bright side.” What bright side? “I’ve just lost someone close to me for crying out loud!” Sorry…better get off my soapbox.  Again, the best thing to do is just be there.

Whew! I am long-winded. I’ll continue this another post. Please feel free to comment and if you think this is helpful please pass it along.

Tips#2

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

As promised (I know you were waiting with baited breath), I want to continue my posts on basically what to say and what not to say to a person who is hurting or grieving. These are adapted from the book by Dave Furman called Being There. The first three were in this post and while I’m going to list them here, you can check out a further explanation by checking out the post.

#1. Don’t Be the Fix-It Person.

#2. Don’t Play the Comparison Game.

#3. Don’t Make it Their Identity.

#4. Don’t Promise Deliverance Now. This is really huge right now in the religious world. False teachers/cult leaders/prosperity teachers and other heretical personalities are promising deliverance. You know how it works. They come to you saying, “I just know you are going to be healed. God has told me He will do that.” They might even tell you to think positive. Think good thoughts, happy thoughts. Get rid of all negativity. Kum-ba-yah and all that other rot.  IMHO you are not there to be their personal faith guru or their guarantor of God’s healing power. I get so sick of heretics making false claims of healing, getting peoples’ hopes up only to watch them and their faith come crashing down because “God didn’t come through.” I do like what the author says is key to this thought: “Instead of promising deliverance in this life, point them to God’s presence and a future hope that will never let them down.” (p.119)

#5. Don’t Encourage Them to Just “Move On.” You find this in the more “I’m going to take you to the good side by constantly telling you to leave all your troubles behind” kind of person.  That approach seems so calloused if you ask me.  This person is literally telling the hurting person his/her life has been on hold for way too long and it is time get over it.  Now…granted there is a fine line between wallowing in your pity and grieving appropriately. Grieving is so essential, but so is adequate grieving. When we, by our words or actions, tell people it is high time they got over their grieving, we are essentially saying, “I’m tired of dealing with this issue with you.”  One of the things I keep telling myself is people grieve differently and at different speeds. Do I think some people “milk” it? Sure. But, at the same time, who am I to think someone “ought to be over it by now”?

Well, I’m sorry this has gotten so long. I didn’t think I had this much in me. 🙂 Anyway, I’ll post some more tips in another day or two. I invite you back for another visit. And feel free to share this if you think it will help someone.