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Mindless or #LosingMyMind

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

So I’m not sure if Mindless is the same as Losing My Mind. I’m guessing not, but the latter is my sermon title for Sunday and I’m not sure how to make that one word except #LosingMyMind. So being the decisive person I am, I decided to include them both! 🙂

We are a nation of interesting ideologies. And slogans which sometimes show our ideologies. The sports world is an interesting case. For year, Tiger Woods was the face of golf and an inspiration to hundreds, maybe thousands of children, especially people of color. When he fell from grace a few years ago, his star also fell. But last year he resurrected his career and his star is once more an inspiration to kids to pursue their dreams. And unless you were born under a rock, you also know he just won his 5th Master’s Green Jacket.  And who can forget “Bo knows” or “Be Like Mike”?

When it comes to biblical characters we prefer to be a Daniel or a Stephen or a Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego than a Peter (who denied Jesus three times) or a Judas.  Victory over sin is not won overnight. It is won in the trenches of everyday life. Romans 8 has been called the “highlight” of Romans. The next four weeks of sermons will be focusing on Romans 8. I’m calling this first sermon “Losing My Mind” because it focuses on who has control of our mind-the flesh or the Spirit.  Which one will I give my mind to?

Your prayers would be appreciated.

Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?

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?

 

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?

 

DrawingPeople

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

My last post was sort of snarky in that it was tongue-in-cheek. It was either not read much or people just chose not to comment. (Can I hope for the latter?)

Anyway, I thought I would use a quote I read from Scott Sauls’ book from Weakness to Strength. I highly recommend it especially for anyone in leadership. In a chapter he called Opposition: The Unlikely Pathway to Neighbor Love, Scott used this quote:

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it. Madeline L’Engle

There are some people who see it as their mission in life to tear down other people. I know there is a need for discernment when it comes to cults, false teachers, etc. But I’m not sure there is value in name-calling and “demonizing” someone due to their choice of lifestyle. Please don’t misunderstand me here: I believe the so-called “alternate lifestyle” is sinful, but they are still people. I used to be one of those preachers who said “I tell it like it is and if you don’t like it argue with the Bible not me.” I now realize that was and is the wrong approach.

Scott summed up Madeline’s words with these:  “No amount of cultural opposition stopped Jesus from working to change the world through love.” I can’t argue with him.

All that to say this: perhaps instead of being hateful and judgmental toward those who oppose us, maybe we can take the position of lovingly disagreeing while maintaining our Biblical stance. It doesn’t mean I am compromising; it means I am trying to reach people with the message of the love of Jesus with honey instead of vinegar.

What are your thoughts?

 

Opportunity/Request

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Nothing earth-shattering in this post today. I’d just like to ask you to pray about a unique opportunity I have today. Even if you get this “after the fact” I’d still like to ask you to pray.

I moved to Spencer to pastor Owen Valley Christian Fellowship in November of 2005. I wanted something different…for my life…as a pastor. In some ways I guess you can say I was tired of playing it safe. I had been a pastor for 30+ years and it was time to get out of my comfort zone and to put “feet to my faith.” As time moved on I tried to do that. Some intentional; some not. I dreamed of the church being involved in the community so when a question came asking if we did anything for Thanksgiving, I said, “No, but we will.” So within 3 weeks we started serving a Thanksgiving dinner. From Day 1 it was a success.  If we did something for Thanksgiving why not Christmas? So we started a Christmas breakfast. The traction has been slower but we had a good turnout at the Lions Club (we use their building since it is in town) this past Christmas and also delivered over 60 meals. In time I found myself involved in different organizations in our community. Due to the need to cutback some, I am now involved as a board member of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce. Three years ago they were looking for a venue to host what are called Legislative Breakfasts. One year there are three of them on the 3rd Saturday of January through March; another year there are four of them. This is our third year hosting the meeting.

Through these meetings I have had the opportunity to meet some local politicians who truly care and have a heart for their districts.  One such man is Bob Heaton. He played basketball at Indiana State with some other guy named Larry Bird. Bob is a Christ-follower with a heart for truth and for the people he represents.

Now comes the part where I tell you of my opportunity and request.  NO IT IS NOT RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE. I would not even consider that in any way, shape or form.  It is something I consider much more important. Bob asked if I would be interested in opening the session at the Indiana House with prayer some day. I said, “Yes” (with a little bit of fear and hesitation).  Lo, and behold, I got a call asking me to open the session of the House on Monday, February 18th at 1:30. So today is the day.

I’d like to ask that you pray for me and that I might have the right words to say. Thanks.

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. 🙂

 

Shameless

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Shameless plug here. I make no bones about it. I’m not going to call it something else. I’ll call it what it is. 🙂 I wrote the following at my other blog, LivingintheShadow:

Ever since I read Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur in 1993-1995 for the first and second time, I have always been stopped by Psalm 13. There was a scene in the book where Yoma (a wise old man) led Jason (the main character) through this psalm. No matter how many times I read Psalms, I ponder this chapter because it made things so clear to me years ago and still does. Here is how it breaks down:

For the rest of the post and my thoughts please go here:

I would be honored if you would check out my other blog and consider subscribing. See the side bar for a direct link to LivingintheShadow. Thanks.

January??

Monday, January 7th, 2019

If I lived in Arizona as several of my online friends do, what I am about to write would not sound too crazy. If I lived in Florida, where some folks from the church are visiting and some old friends from the church now live, you would not think I sound crazy.

It’s January here in Indiana. January 6th (yesterday) to be exact. You know…the land of cold and ice and snow. Not like Norway, Sweden or even Canada. But the land of cold and ice and snow. (Cue Led Zepplin here)

I rode my bike yesterday. I rode my bike Saturday as well. 14. 5 on Saturday. 17.5 on Sunday. What gives? A bike with snow shoes or ice crampons? A road bike with huge treaded (not a word) tires made for mountain biking? Wrong on both counts.

Weather in the high 40s/low 50s on Saturday. When I started on Sunday my truck thermometer read 60+ degrees.  I was wise. There have been times I have ridden and been under-dressed and shivered my way home.  I recently found out the gloves I bought for winter riding were only good down to about 30. After that…shiver me fingers. They hurt so bad I cut a couple of rides short. But Saturday I worked up a good sweat. Sunday I worked up a good sweat but was also smart in that I packed some liners for my short-fingered gloves and a headband for my ears.  It is crazy how quickly it cools off when the sun goes down.

I enjoyed my two days of decent-weather riding. Makes me long for warm weather riding which is just around the corner. (I’m an optimist).

Some things never change though. Thinking I was okay and forgetting that  in cold or warm weather proper nutrition is a must, I failed to hydrate and eat right when I was done. I paid the price during small group last night when an inner thigh cramp seized my whole upper leg and I had to get up and massage and stretch. Some things never change I guess. You’d think at the age of 66 and after years of riding I’d learn my lesson. Some heads are hard.

If I may, allow me a spiritual application. Learning from our mistakes is essential. Proverbs tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The moment I get hard-hearted or hard-headed, I’m in trouble spiritually. I’m convinced a follower of Christ is never too old (or too young) to learn. I pray I never stop learning. I’d like to stop learning from all the dumb mistakes I make, but you gotta stop making them and that might never happen! 🙂

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.