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#JesusMovement#Laurie#JesusPeople

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I was born in 1952 (that puts me at a soon-to-be 68 for those counting. October 9 to be exact. Money accepted. 🙂 )  so I was in my teen years in 1965-1970. I wasn’t very world savvy (translation: not at all) so I knew very little about what was going on in Vietnam. I did not follow the hippie movement; Haight-Ashbury; LSD and the pharmacy; Nixon; Woodstock; Altamont; nor any of the movement called the Jesus Movement (JM). My music at the time was Tommy James and the Shondells, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, mostly bubblegum music. But then Tommy James did Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion (still my all-time #1 song). My senses began picking up vibes of another world. I began working and heard about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Still I had not heard of the JM or the Jesus People. I came from a pretty conservative church. I know of the One Way sign and once flashed it to a military vehicle in front of us and promptly got back a middle finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was giving him one or if he was letting me know what he thought of Jesus. I rude awakening for sure. I had never heard of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire Chuck Girard and Love Song, or any of the other seminal artists in what was then a fledgling Christian music genre. And I for sure had never heard of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel, or one of Chuck’s protege’s, Greg Laurie. Too bad. But even then that was West Coast and I lived in PA.

This book, Jesus Revolution, by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn was a great way to do an interstate tour through a state route roadway. I learned about Greg’s early involvement in drugs and the counterculture, but also with JM/JP after God got a hold of his life. But I also learned far more. I love history and man this book gives a breezy, Clif Notes version of the JM. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane-a lane I have no memory of…except some of the world events (which I now know about). But I loved hearing about history and how the JM intersected the world; how Chuck Smith opened his neat ‘n tidy church to the young hippies who were seeking meaning to their emptiness. Chuck pointed them to Jesus. One of those burned out people was Greg Laurie. It was fun reading of Greg’s “rise” from a 17 y/o hippie to preaching at Riverside (an effort blessed and encouraged by Chuck) at the age of 19. God began to use Greg to where they eventually had to begin meeting at the Riverside Municipal Building with no A/C! It was nicknamed the Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven.

This book included stories of Greg; his marriage to Cathe (which is about 8 months shorter than mine); his “rise” as a pastor; his influence in people’s lives; the tragic and untimely death of his son, Christopher, in a car accident; the renewal of his son, Jonathan as a result of the accident; his Harvest Crusades and his move back to Orange County to start a church. It also included some great round-ups of world events during the ’60s-’79.

This was a wonderful book!! If you like history, especially contemporary church history, you will want to get this book. You will not be sorry. It makes me want to read more about the JM and more of Pastor Greg’s books.  And just to be clear: this is not a book going on and on about how great Greg Laurie is. I suspect he would eschew that in the highest order.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today

#Legalism#Freedom

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”

#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.

#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

#WithinUs#How’sthatWorking?#RealPeace

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Ever since sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, man has tried to do things on his own. Cain thought he could change things by killing his brother Abel.  Nope. The downhill slope we started on when our parents sinned just amped up even more. Over the course of 6000 years or so (give or take a few), we have continued trying to do things our way. Frankly, the “trying it our way” schtick hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, recent events show it has gone from bad to worse. 

Enter Chris Cuomo, the CNN host of Cuomo Prime Time. This past week he said something so asinine that I can hardly believe he said it…but then again I shouldn’t be surprised.  He said instead of trusting God to get us through uncertain times,  we should “look within us” for the answers. He went on to say:

If you believe in one another and if you do the right thing for yourself and your community, things will get better in this country.  And then he added this: {You don’t need help from above, it’s within us}. Emphasis mine.

I can be really snarky but perhaps this question will do the trick:  ‘Hey Chris! How’s that working out for you?”  One commentator said, “Yep. That tactic is working SUPER well right now.” Another said, “How do we know what the right thing is Chris?”  

You see, that latter question is very telling.  How do we know? When he was being interviewed for a documentary for ESPN 30 to 30, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong was asked if he was going to tell the truth during this interview. His response is typical of many: ‘Yeah, I’ll tell the truth. MY TRUTH.” Say what? Since when is my truth different from THE truth?  The last I read my truth is to conform to HIS truth. Anything less is falsehood. With Lance we were going to get his version of the truth. Typical of our world and now you know why that last comment was so probing.

Folks, things are not going to get better by our own efforts. Try as we may. Protest all you want (as if those have been peaceful). Woodstock was seen as a harbinger of the “summer of love.” Less than 4 months later two festivals- Altamont and Isle of Wright- were unmitigated disasters. Sort of like Seattle. Sort of like any other man-made effort for peace.

Mark it down: PEACE WILL NEVER COME TO THIS WORLD UNTIL JESUS RETURNS.  No matter what Chris Cuomo or any of his ilk say. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

 

#AllLivesMatter#NoMatterWho

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

#MemorialDay#Tribute#Jesus

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Over at my other blog I wrote the following devotion. I decided to do double duty today and also post it here.  My plans today involve working on a sermon, having an early morning ride, then spending the rest of the day with my wife and daughter.  Here is my devotion:

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

#Pursue!#Challenges#TheRightThings

Friday, May 1st, 2020

True or False? Experience is the best teacher.

I’m guessing you said, “True.” What if I told you maybe, maybe not? Truthfully, we can have experience after experience and still not learn a thing. Perhaps that phrase would be better worded:

GUIDED EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER.

As I have taken us through the book of Colossians, we are now coming to what is a typical characteristic of Paul’s writings. The first part of his letters are doctrinal; the second half are practical.  Some would accuse him of being a broken record in the first half: he spends a lot of time with false teachers.  But in this section he moves to a more positive approach as he challenges his readers to make a difference. What I like about this is that Paul walks alongside them as he gives those challenges. It’s not like he says, “Okay boys! You’re on your own now!” They are not left on their own to figure things out.

In this week’s Scripture, Paul presents three challenges to the Colossian church and, by proxy, to us. Here they are:

CHALLENGE #1: Seek things above.

CHALLENGE #2: Get rid of garbage.

CHALLENGE #3: Add the essentials.

They stand as a great challenge for us as well. I’d like to invite you to join us at 10:00 EST this Sunday. They are working right now on installing new equipment. I, for one, hope it is ready to go on Sunday. Either way, we will be streaming our service. I would be honored to have you join us Sunday for “Be Careful What you Pursue.”

If you can’t be here your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

#Choose!#JesusAlone

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Confronting Christianity, the excellent book by Rebecca McLaughlin (2019 Book of the Year) opened with this introduction:

In 1971, Beatles star John Lennon had a dream. Closing his eyes to the atheist regimes of his day, he dreamed of a brotherhood of man with no heaven, no hell, no countries, no possessions, ‘nothing to kill or die for,’ and ‘no religion.’ This dream persists. ‘Imagine’ was sung reverentially at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Despite prescribing an antireligious pill swallowed by one tiny fraction of the world, it is seen as an anthem of unity across ideological differences. As its notes rang out in PyeongChang, the sister of the supreme leader of North Korea-a state that has tried ‘no religion’ and still found much to kill and die for-graced the crowd.

Eight years before ‘Imagine’ was released, another prophet shared another dream. He dreamed that ‘one day in Alabama…little black boys and black girls [would] be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sister and brothers.

The difference between Lennon’s dream and Dr. King’s dream was the issue of faith. Lennon said None; King said fulfillment. Who was right? Of course, that is not all we have been inundated with.  Our world is filled, no make that flooded, with aberrant philosophies and ideas-vain, Godless and empty.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians presents the only one that will satisfy, that will fill: to follow Christ.  After a two week hiatus from Colossians due to Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday, I’m coming back. My first sermon is on the sufficiency of Christ from Colossians 2:8-15.  We are online as most churches are these days. We are still working  out bugs and I would appreciate your prayers as we navigate these waters.