God

...now browsing by category

 

#Sovereignty#Timing

Friday, August 14th, 2020

I heard a great statement the other day that I will be using in this week’s sermon. 

The silence of God does not equate the absence of God.

That really struck home to me as I thought about the sermon. We are afforded very little information about the future. Unless you are talking about the book of Revelation and even that is clouded in mystery. In our personal lives, we really aren’t given any either. No crystal ball, Ouija board, seance, or Tarot card will tell us what is in our future.

But we all would like, I think, to know something about our future.  Who of us would not like to know what stocks to buy when a company first went public? Who of us would not like to have known not to have taken that route home after work?

But when you think about it there are more important things we would like to know and not given an inkling about. I can think of a couple in the Bible.

  • Joseph. Remember him? After a life of uncertainty he is elevated to second in Pharaoh’s government. When his father died, his brothers thought, “Oh no. He is going to come back on us.” But Joseph’s words to them stand for us as well: “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”
  • Esther. Remember Mordecai’s words to her? When she was wavering on approaching the king, Mordecai told her “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There are more, but those two and Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 will be my focus this week. They are clearly evidence of God’s sovereignty and timing in action. I most certainly would appreciate your prayers this week. Along with preaching, Jo and I will be taking Braden back to Ohio on Saturday. An 8 hour round trip in one day…the day before I preach. That sure beats Jo doing it all on one day by herself (Sunday). So prayers for safe travel and then physical alertness would be much appreciated. Ahead of time: thanks.

#Grace#HassledHeart

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture before-maybe countless times-and not really read it?  You know…sort of mindless reading. Honestly, I have found myself doing that when reading parts of the OT.  I have in the past read through the Bible in a year several times. But I “cheated” when reading some of the more tedious passages-like Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy and some of the Prophets. Ezekiel was one of them. But one day I woke up as I was reading Ezekiel 34: 11-16. I was blown away and stunned by its beauty, power and all-encompassing picture of grace.  That grace is seen in so many ways, but I think it is especially seen in the one subject I think may plague more Christ-followers than anything else.

What topic is that? It is the one I’m going to be dealing with Sunday.

FORGIVENESS

That just might be the one subject Christ-followers are more fragile on than any other.  When you think about it, forgiveness actually has two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.  Forgiveness starts with vertical-our relationship with God. Then it moves to horizontal-our relationship with others.  So many try to get the latter right before the former is in place. We get it all wrong.

To show you the emptiness of the latter without the former taking place I want to tell you what happened to me the other day. I was in Circle K (a gas station/convenience store) and the cashier made a comment to me and really to all who were around. As I stepped up to pay she said, “There are 3 things that keep me going-caffeine, tobacco and resentment.” I said to her, “The latter two will kill you.” She repeated it to me like it was a badge of honor. So I did likewise-I repeated my warning.  I felt sad for her and wished she had a wise friend who could help her. 

My sermon Sunday is entitled Grace for the Hassled Heart.  You already know the Scripture and the focus. Now I’d like to ask you to pray for me and for us.  Thanks.

#Satisfaction#Emptiness

Friday, July 31st, 2020

The late Swiss psychiatrist and author, Dr. Paul Tournier once wrote:

It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood.

I certainly can’t argue with that. Recent circumstances in our world of unrest should help us to see this is true. While there are bad eggs in all things, the underlying factor in many arguments or conflicts are founded in the simple desire to be heard. Sadly, rational conversation and dialogue goes by the board when ears get stopped up with anger, prejudice, unreasonable actions, and other sicknesses.

Many people are walking through life like zombies. I, for one, do not for one minute believe zombies are real, but the picture of people walking like they are in a fog or controlled by a foreign entity is real. They are empty and searching and looking for something, but tragically have no clue where to look.

My example in this week’s sermon is the woman at the well in John 4. Lost, confused, empty, shallow, and looking all over for answers, she finds her answers the only place possible. It is not a thing or an event. It is a Person, Jesus.  He promised her satisfaction for her empty soul. What also shines in this story is Jesus shows us how we should reach out to people.

Satisfaction for an Empty Soul is my title. John 4 is my Scripture. I will be making a very clear presentation of the need for salvation.  I have no clue who will be listening so I am praying there will be someone listening to realizes their emptiness and need for Jesus. So with that in mind I’d appreciate your prayers for two things: One, open hearts to hear and respond; and two, for me as I preach. I want to speak clearly and passionately.

#NoPlaceToHide#Book Review

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

After reading I’ve Seen the End of You by surgeon Lee Warren, it was a no-brainer that I would read his first book, No Place to Hide.  I have to admit that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew about it was he was a surgeon in Iraq and had to deal with some PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome).  PTSD is very common in combat soldiers and it manifests itself in multiple ways. It is also found in accident victims-accidents of many different kinds. I was particularly interested because there are several men in the church I pastor who were in either Desert Storm or Iraq and suffer from PTSD, from mild to severe. A friend of mine has it due to watching his best friend die almost literally in his arms after a horrible accident involving a 90+ year old man ramming his car into several cyclists while on an MS ride.  (And he got off almost scot-free due to $$$$).

Here is my review of No Place to Hide:

I have never been in armed conflict. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War but was in Bible college so I was exempt. BTW: that was not why I went to Bible college. I was virtually illiterate about the news and Vietnam. I think my parents knew I would have been toast if I had signed up for the military because I could not find a job after my Freshman year in college and my uncle (un-brave soul that he was) took me to a recruiting station. My mom was contacted by the recruiter and she discouraged it.  Anyway, I have only read or listened to the horrors of that conflict as well as Desert Storm and the Iraqi invasion. To say my eyes were opened would be an understatement.  Lee was a brain surgeon with a successful practice but he received his papers to go to Balad Air Base for four months.  I will spare you the gory details but to say his time at Balad was a vacation would do him a great injustice. It would do all those who served in any capacity a great injustice.

While at Balad he was required to treat our military personnel, but also innocent Iraqi citizens, and our enemies, terrorist bombers included. The descriptions of what some of our personnel went through were enough to give me nightmares if I had allowed it. Innocent citizens punished for making a living by becoming translators or voting was enough to make my blood boil.  And to make it worse was for all medical personnel giving their best to save the suicide bombers and others responsible for much of the bloodshed on their own people was almost more than I could stand.  I just can’t understand that kind of hate, especially that which was done in the name of a “peaceful religion and God (Allah).”

I had to wait until close to the final 40 or so pages before Lee was discharged to read about the PTSD. While in Iraq his marriage fell apart (it was already heading there before deployment), and he came home broken and bruised, but missed greatly by his children.  It was after all of that and his marriage to Lisa that his PTSD hit him hard. I’m not going to go into detail about it. There is no need to. I’d just say, “Read the book.”

But I will tell you this: if you did not respect our men and women of the military before, you will after reading this book. It does not matter if they were in combat or a doctor in a field hospital, they went through horrendous conditions that I cannot fathom. Plan to be challenged. Plan to have your eyes opened. Plan to find respect for our military personnel. Plan to have tissues  handy. But also plan to see Dr. Warren give praise to God for bringing him out alive and able to minister as a top brain surgeon.

#Endurance#NeverGiveUp

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Over the past year or so we seem to be reading more-than-we-like-to-read articles of people who are walking away from their faith. Some of them have been very prominent people. One well-known author was known for his dating stance and became a very popular author and pastor.  He announced his separation and divorce and proclaimed himself apostate. One worship leader with Hillsong came out as did a recent member of a very prominent Christian music group. (Names are withheld on purpose).  On a much lesser scale, i.e. not being very well-known, are pastors and youth pastors who are defecting.

It happens with common people as well.  We might all know someone who has turned his/her back on their faith and embraced nothing but emptiness or vain philosophy.

The whole idea is nothing new. It happened in the OT. It happened in the NT (just ask Paul about Demas). It happens today as I have stated. The prophet Jeremiah was familiar with the history of Israel and their propensity for falling away. The book of Judges is a chronicle of that very problem. After the judge died it says, “They did what was right in their own eyes.” That about sums it up.

My sermon this Sunday touches on defection, but my point is really the importance of endurance. Jeremiah 2:1-9 deals with the defection of Israel and Hebrews 12: 1-3 shows us the importance of endurance and how to make it happen. My challenge is to stand strong and not quit.  That is for me. That is for you. That is for the folks who will be listening this week in-person or online.

Your prayers would be much appreciated.

#Faith#TruthfulSayings

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

I wrote a blog post here about reading Dr. Lee Warren’s book I’ve Seen the End of You.  Here are some thoughts from that book for you to think about this week:

With the prism of faith, we see only blurred lines of pain, disease, and disappointment.

Faith aligns what you think you’re seeing with reality. It shifts your focus from the problem to the promise.

Faith allows you to see it’s okay to have doubt but we doubt the doubt more than the promise of the One who never breaks His word.

Faith doesn’t keep us from having problems. (My note: Hear that all you health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel teachers?) It just gives a clearer view of how God is responding to them.

Doubt is not fatal if we recognize it for what it is: a smudge on the lens. When we realize that, wipe it clear, and put the glasses back on, we’ll be okay.

The things we think we know are more like cataracts. They can obscure and blind us to the truth of God’s work around us that is plain to see when our eyes are healthy.

(All taken from page 254 of Dr. Warren’s book)

I’d like to highly recommend you read his book. I am now reading his previous book, No Place to Hide which covers his time in Iraq as a medical surgeon in Balad. It is gut-wrenching so far. More praise to our armed forces!!

 

#Security#Fear

Friday, July 17th, 2020

If there is one thing I am sure of these days is there is a lot of insecurity among people. We live in unsure times. What started out to be the year that would be (2020) has now become the year that “could have been” or depending upon your perspective, the year that “has become.”  The economy was firing on all cylinders when COVID-19 happened. That was usurped by the unrest, turbulence and violence following the death of George Floyd. Now we are back to the spike in COVID cases.  There is no question we live in an age of upheaval. The big “C” church is under attack. We speak up and we are called homophobic, bigoted, opinionated, etc. Stay silent then we are accused of bigotry, pride,  prejudice, and a lack of compassion. Many live in fear of the future. Truth be known: many live in fear of the present.

My sermon this Sunday is from what I would consider one of the most poignant passages in all of Scripture on the security we have in Christ. This is not a sermon on “once saved/always saved” vs “one can lose their salvation.” This is a sermon on the steadfastness of God’s character and love for His children.  I’m approaching Romans 8: 31-39 with three thoughts:

  1. God is for us
  2. God defends us
  3. God battles for us

Psalm 27:1 tells us, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” With that promise in mind, I hope to give clarity and strength for whatever may come. Not because we strive in our own strength, but because we KNOW and TRUST the One whom we can lean on.

Your prayers would be appreciated. And I’d love to welcome you to listen online at the church’s FB page or the church’s YouTube channel.  You can find more information at the church’s website

#OutoftheBlue#VictoryStory

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

“What is it with me?” I have to ask. This is the third book review in a row? This is the second that has to deal with cancer. You might be wondering the same thing. Is Bill trying to tell us something? Truthfully, not that I know of. Who knows what is going on inside my body…or yours for that matter.

While I was reading Dream Big by Bob Goff (my review is here) Bob told how he was asked to do a Preface for a book by Greg Murtha. So I pursued it a bit further since Bob told a little of Greg’s story and it sounded interesting. Greg wrote a book called Out of the Blue and finished it on June 19, 2017. He went “to the head of the line” on June 22, 2017.  This book is Greg’s story and life lessons learned during 5 years of chemotherapy and fighting through 75 chemo treatments.  This was literally one of those books I had trouble putting down.  I started reading it Saturday evening since I didn’t have to preach and had to pry it out of my hands to go to bed. Then as I tossed and turned I wondered if I should have just stayed up and read some more. I finished it Sunday night after attending church with friends, having lunch with them, and coming home to cut grass. The rest of my evening was spent putting the finishing touches on reading this book. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

Greg was a hard-driving and successful man, but by his own admission not a great husband or father. Provider? Yes. Engaged? No.  But here is how his journey began: “On a cold December morning in 2011, I ran eleven miles on the picturesque Crocket Hills Trail in Middle Tennessee…As a 46 year old man in what I thought was peak physical condition, eleven miles was nothing. Afterward, sweating but pumped, I headed for the bathroom at the YMCA. That’s when my runner’s high deflated. It appeared as if someone had poured a container of bright-red blood into the toilet. It was a lot of blood, and I realized instantly, this is not good.”

So begins his story of 5 years/75 treatments. And so begins one of the most captivating books you will ever read.  One month after that 11 mile run, Greg and Tracey (his wife) found out he had Aggressive Stage 3 colon cancer (I’ll leave out the details)  which soon became Stage 4.  Out of the blue his life was changed forever.  Out of the blue his well-planned life had been radically changed. Hence, now you know the reason for the title of the book.

And out of the blue I was slammed by the lessons Greg learned.  How often, even though I want to be a pastor who is tender and open to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, have I walked past people who are obviously hurting?  How many times have I been so preoccupied with my own issues or concerns that I have failed to see the signs of others who are needing someone to care?  How many times have I sensed that nudge from the Spirit to reach out and failed to do so? I can honestly say…way too many.  I shed tears during this book.  Not for Greg but for how his heart was made tender for others. How his heart was molded into a heart like Jesus.  And I shed tears because I am so lacking in that department. Like Joni, Greg says cancer was a blessing and he wouldn’t change a thing.  His biggest regret was leaving behind his wife of 23+ years and his 15 year old son.

Out of the blue God taught me how I needed to be much more open to others; how I needed to be much more sensitive to His voice and available to His lead.  I say “out of the blue” because I was not expecting this book to be what it was-a lesson in listening to God’s voice and acting upon it.  Greg’s journey on this earth is over, but then again, maybe it has just begun…in me. I pray my heart will be open to the Father’s leading as his was.

Get this book. But just be forewarned: you will be hit out of the blue with powerful lessons.

Out of the Blue: The Unexpected Adventure of Life Interrupted

#NeurosurgeonWisdom#BookReview

Friday, July 10th, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. It is the first Sunday since September that I have had off. We will be heading to Ohio for our grandson’s baseball game, coming back home Saturday and attending church elsewhere with some friends. So I thought I would take this spot, when I normally talk about my sermon, to do a book review. I welcome you to join me as I do that.

If you are like me, there have been times when doubts arise. Truthfully, I have never doubted who Jesus is. I have never doubted the divinity of Jesus or the truth that he was fully God and fully man. I have major issues with so-called Bible teachers like Bill Johnson, Todd White and others of that ilk who presume to know the deeper things and can’t even get it right that Jesus did not need to be born again. (And yes, BJ said he did. It’s on YouTube).  So, it isn’t the questions like the resurrection or the life of Jesus or even the miracles found in the Bible (Noah and the flood, for example, or Jonah and the big fish).

The doubt I’m talking about is the struggle between faith and doubt, the things we think we know that often cause the most trouble. The doubts which arise when prayers are not answered as we think they should be. The doubts that arise when we look around and see the injustice and war and slaughter of babies or the lives of young people or even young adults being taken away by cancer.

Those are the kinds of doubts W. Lee Warren, MD writes about in his new book I’ve Seen the End of You. What a phenomenal read!! Dr. Warren is a neurosurgeon (primarily brain) who is also an inventor (related to his brain surgery), an Iraq War veteran, and now a writer. He is also a blogger and a podcaster.  His first book, No Place to Hide -which I have not read but will- is about his Iraq experience, the PTSD which followed, as well as other fallout from that experience.  This book is about faith, doubt and the things we think we know.

I was captivated by it. When I first looked at it my thought was “What did I get myself into? He is going to be way above my head.” Not so. Dr. Warren’s style is what I will call conversational, filled with stories from his practice (primarily his work with Gioblastoma) and how his life was affected by his interaction with his patients. And just as he is dealing with the death of his patients (GBM has a 100% death rate), he loses his son. His faith is sorely tested. He asks a lot of questions; finds no easy answers; works his way through his emotions and feelings about God and life; and admits to his struggles-even to this day.  Dr Warren is real and transparent. I would love to meet him someday (but not for his specialty).

I can’t say enough about this book. You won’t find one negative comment from me. But you will find a rousing endorsement. I have already offered it to a nurse to read while on her vacation.  I had neck surgery back in 2010 (yeah it was from a bike wreck caused by a dog), and the neurosurgeon was a Christ-follower. I would give a copy of this book to him if I ever needed to see him again. (I just might anyway).  Please go out and buy this book. Read it first. Then give it to someone else to read.

 

By the way, there are some powerful quotes I might use at another time.  If  you read them you will find them too. 🙂

#/DreamBig#GoodRead

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Every once in awhile (not very often) I will look in the mirror or say to myself, “I wish I was younger.”  After 22 miles on a hot, humid and hilly day in the saddle this past Saturday, I got off my bike completely spent and found myself saying, “I wish I was younger.” (Yeah, I didn’t get any sympathy from my wife either).  When I cut my grass (I walk it) and my back, legs and knees are sore when I’m done, I wish I was younger.  When I look at what used to be Mr. America type muscles (cough! cough! That’s a joke son. I say. I say. That’s a joke) and see that I can no longer get the size I used to (especially since I don’t use steroids), I will say, “I wish I was younger.” When I make my way to bed between 9-9:30 so I can get up at 3:30 and it is still light out, Jo and I will sometimes say, “We’re pathetic.” (Translate: we didn’t do this when we were younger).  When I used to memorize a good part, if not all, of my sermon and now have trouble with the title, I will say, “I remember when I was younger.” 🙂

Just recently I finished a book only I didn’t wait until I was finished to say, “I wish I was younger.” I was saying it all along.  I have loved reading Bob Goff’s books- Love Does and Everyone Always. They were gems to read.  Going on that I picked up his newest book, Dream Big. He didn’t disappoint. His engaging and out-of-the-corner-of-his-mouth way of speaking and writing make me chuckle. It also had me underlining. I took notes. Each chapter began with a short pithy statement that alone was worth the price of the book. It read quickly. It is not filled with deep theological truth that makes you stop and chew on it for days.  That is not his style. But you cannot go away from any one chapter not thinking. His stories capture you. His honesty and transparency are refreshing.  Bob has the ability to laugh at himself and also to be serious about the passions which drive him.

But I wish I was younger.  If I was in my 20s or 30s or even 40s this would be a book I would read over and over, probably once a year. But at age 67 I’m near the end of my dreaming big stage. Not that I’m done dreaming or hoping or wanting to serve, but I WISH I WAS YOUNGER! I’m giving this book to my daughter, Tami, to read. She’s only 45 and has dreams. I want her to pursue them, especially since teaching kindergarten kids in school is no longer what it once was. Masks on kids? Seriously? Social distancing kindergarten kids? Seriously? “Pursue your dreams Tami.” And you who might be reading this: pursue your dreams. Especially if you are young and still have time to dream big.

Yeah…if I was only younger. My suggestion: go out and buy this for someone you love and care about. Read it with them and challenge them. Mentor them to pursue their God-given passions.  Let me leave you with just three quick quotes from his book:

Live on the edge of yikes. (p.155)

I love that!! Here is another:

Be where your feet are. (p.127)

That is an old South saying. And one more:

Don’t act like you got it all figured out. Nobody wants to give that person extra time.  Instead, be humble, self-aware, and punishingly truthful. (p.15)

There are more…way more. Enough to fill two journal pages.  Get the book for yourself and read it.

Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It