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Mulligan

Friday, June 8th, 2018

If you have ever played golf with a “duffer” you will have heard the word “Mulligan” used. There is quite a history behind the term. You can go to GriffGolf.com to learn more. But it is named after a person and is a term used to offer someone a “free pass” on a bad shot.  History says it came as a result of a bad first shot and it was called a “correction shot” by David Mulligan.

The story I will be preaching on Sunday needs a mulligan. The words “sin in the camp” has such an ugly ring but in this case it is true. If you are familiar with the story of Israel’s defeat at the hands of a city named Ai, you are probably also aware of the reason they lost. “Sin in the camp” is a good way to put it.

But there is more. The preparation for going to war against Ai also showed two other things:

  1. The Israelites were too self-confident.
  2. They definitely had a lack of prayer.

The application to our lives is easy to see. I’ll also be spending some time on what led Achan to do what he did.  It definitely was an eye-opener for me, as well as a gut-check on my attitude toward the enemy. I’d appreciate your prayers for all involved-myself and the audience.  Also, our worship leader is on vacation so prayers would be much appreciated for those who are filling in.

Why?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

I’m reading a book right now called Notes from the Valley by Pastor Andy MCquitty,  subtitled “A Spiritual Travelogue Through Cancer.” No…I don’t have cancer that I know of. But so many people whom I love and care about do. Andy is no different than “regular” people. Just because he is a pastor does not mean he did not ask the same questions other do.  Many people expect pastors to be “above others.” They don’t want a pastor who is better than them or thinks he is better than them. They don’t want a pastor who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to.

But…

They also expect him to be above the fray. You know… he should never ask or question God.  He should have perfect faith. Never a doubt. Never a fear. Never a raised voice in anger toward God.

May I let you in on something? Get your head out of the sand! I put my pants and shirt on the same way you do.  As much as I wish I could sometimes, I don’t tear open the buttons of my shirt (sort of hard since I wear t-shirts so often) to reveal a Captain America logo. Or a giant “S.”  I/pastors have feelings just like you. Just like your cancer-ridden friend.  Just like your friend whose parent’s mind is being ravaged by dementia or Parkinson’s. Just like you when you have heard of another friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. Or a baby born with physical problems.

Just like you Pastor Andy asked, “Why?” “Why me and not him?” Just like you your pastor struggles with having answers to unanswerable questions.

And just like you I am sometimes astonished God answers a prayer when I least expect it or in a way that is not on my radar. What prompted this post? Several things. I’ve already told you about my friends. But I also have been reading in Acts as I read through my ESV Reader’s Bible and read the story today of Peter’s release from prison by the angel. He goes to a house where they are praying for him and the servant girl is so astounded she leaves him outside. When she tells the people praying they say, “No way. No. No. No.” (my version). And when she convinces them to take a look they are astonished God answered their prayer. I chuckle at that. Not because of their lack of faith, but because “been there done that.” (Full story in Acts 12:6-19)

So ask “Why?” Go ahead. Ask away. He will not turn a deaf ear. But let it lead you to the One who can answer it.  But I have also learned there is a better question to ask. Instead of why, the better question is “What now? How do you want me to respond?”

Relief

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Welcome to my Sunday meanderings.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes things just seem to pile up?  We have those seasons when stuff happens, in spades. Not every once in awhile but what seems like an onslaught. As many of you have experienced, it isn’t just one thing; it is a myriad of things.

Cancer diagnosis in friends. (A complication in one came in while I was showering this morning).

Marriages falling apart.

Deaths of friends and the funerals which follow (3 in the last month).

A three-week old baby requiring open heart surgery.

A host of other “beat downs.”

Plus one very tired pastor who needs a break (which is coming).

I’m preaching about HOPE this morning. Hope in a forever home. Good thing I believe in that. If my hope is not connected to forever, my hope will somehow die.  For hope to be hope it must carry with it the promise that all which is broken will be repaired, and that it will remain repaired forever.

I’m glad I have Someone to lean on. If I didn’t I don’t know how I would handle this onslaught right now.  Maybe that is why I have chosen two songs for this week. They are throwbacks. The singer is Mark Farner, former lead singer for Grand Funk. His conversion is a great story but his music is timeless. His lyrics are clear so you shouldn’t have any trouble listening and understanding. So check out this song then go to this one.

Have a great week bolstered (as I am and will be) by the truth I serve an amazing God who understands.

Waterline

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

As in “below the…”

In my office is a book called Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald. It is a book on leadership with its basic premise illustrated by the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The BB is still standing because care was taken to build a solid foundation below the waterline.  I have a driveway that has never been right since the day we moved into the house in 2006. It is made of thick concrete with a stark drop off. Whoever built it failed to taper it so that the entrance was a smooth one. Putting gravel at the end will do no good because gravel just goes to the side eventually. But I also found out just adding to it by tapering an edge would do no good. Whoever rebuilds the edge will need to dig down deep, pull out packed in dirt & gravel and do a new “foundation” for it to be built properly. That is on my “have-someone-to-do” list for this year.  Like the BB, my driveway would be “toast” because it was not properly built below the surface.

Having a proper foundation is absolutely essential.  Staying afloat in life is much like staying afloat in a ship. There needs to be the right amount “below the waterline” to weather storms and rough seas. The Christ-follower’s flotation device is prayer. A failure to have the proper foundation below the waterline of life will lead to ruin. My sermon this week is based on Hebrews 4:14-16 where Jesus is called our High Priest. There is so much there to see and learn! Thanks for your prayers.

And for you from OVCF who read this: remember we go back to two services this Sunday.

Vows

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

New Year’s day is the day people make (what we call) resolutions. I suspect statistics will show most resolutions will be broken by the end of January. Maybe sooner. I stopped making resolutions years ago. I still reflect and tell myself I want to accomplish certain things but setting resolutions is not on my radar.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I drove to Avon (a little over an hour away) to visit a lady in the hospital. There is a nasty flu strain going around which the flu shot doesn’t even touch. She caught it. Anyway, as I was driving I had Kutless on my Spotify. This song came on. It resonated in me as I thought about 2018. I wanted to share it with you. And despite what your idea may be of Kutless’ music (if you have heard it before), I think this will be worth your while to listen.

Part of my vow is growing in my faith. I want to be transformed into His likeness. An important part of that is spending time in the Word each day. And to bring others along with me. I am convinced a daily time in the Word is vital to maintaining a vibrant faith. That is why I started my new website called Be Transformed. It is for me to be consistent and hopefully to encourage others to do the same. Please join me in the study/discussion.

Invasion

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Mention history and ask for examples of invasions and one is likely to hear about Normandy, an invasion so horrific the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and other movies like Band of Brothers cannot do it justice (although they tried).  over 150,000 troops were committed to the initial invasion, employing 6900 vessels, 4100 landing craft, and 12,000 airplanes flying 14,000 sorties. The death tool was astronomical.

History is filled with invasions like that. In one sense, the great invasions of history are analogous to the way in which God chose to deal with the enemy’s rule over the earth. He invaded, but not with guns and ammo and an army trained and armed to the teeth. Instead, He chose a different kind of invasion. One of the HILLS of our faith is God became flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ (Christmas). Then He lived a sinless life only to find Himself being led to a cross where He would die for the sin of the world and then raise from the dead (Easter).

That is one of our Core Beliefs, a HILL we will die on defending. Your prayers are much appreciated

Homecoming

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Maybe Homegoing is a better way to say it.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

Saturday. September 9th. 4:00 PM. Mike Murphy went home.

Mike fought a valiant battle. He remained upbeat as much as he was able until the disease robbed him of the ability to show it. He lost his physical strength. He lost his ability to verbally communicate. Eventually the cancer which had spread throughout his body robbed him of his ability to even breathe.

But throughout the ordeal, which really wasn’t long compared to some, Mike maintained one very important thought: “I know whom I have believed and I know He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him for that day.” Mike’s attitude soon reflected the same I saw in my late mother: He would fall asleep and wake and with disappointment say, “Oh, I’m still here.” He wasn’t in a hurry to leave Sheila, his wife of 17 years. (I married them in June of 2000 in Terre Haute, IN). He was in a hurry to see Jesus, the One who loved him, saved him, gave him the love of his life, and would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Mike is home.

Thanks to all of you who prayed for Mike and Sheila. She needs your prayers now as she makes the necessary preparations for his celebration. They have asked me to speak at his funeral. I’d appreciate your prayers for me as I prepare my remarks. That, of course, means my presence here and at your place will be up in the air.  I’m sure you will understand if I don’t make it by to comment.

I’m glad I can approach Mike’s funeral with joy (mingled with sadness of course), but joy because I know where he is spending eternity.  I cannot say that for all funeral services I do, nor am I happy when I do one where the person has rejected God’s love and invitation. The odds are 1 out of 1 that we will die. Are you ready?

Guest

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Grace is given in so many different ways. I have been spending a good part of the summer talking about Grace on Sunday mornings. Forgiveness. Failing to seek revenge. Releasing bitterness. Stopping complaining. And accepting God’s gift of grace to us just to name a few.

This Sunday we will be hearing about Grace through the words of someone else. Will & Theresa Reed, who have spent the past two years in Mundri and South Sudan, Africa, will be our guests this Sunday. Will & Theresa went to Mundri as missionaries with Serge. They had barely settled in when war broke out and they found themselves having to leave quickly and settle in South Sudan. They came home on furlough early summer limping-not physically but spiritually. Lots of debriefing and counseling for their tattered hearts/souls and through that they were advised to not return to Africa. Will will be seeking employment in this area and they will raise Ellie (born in Africa) with the help of friends and family. While in Africa Ellie had sleep issues which I’m sure contributed to Will & Theresa’s  emotions and stamina. They are a beautiful, young couple and I hope we are able to be a grace-filled place for them this Sunday.

Will has preached twice here before and has done a superb job. I look forward to hearing him again; seeing Theresa and Ellie; and laughing over lunch. I know they would appreciate your prayers as they transition to life in the states. I’m praying we can be grace to them while they are visiting.

SafetyWeek

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

I am writing this particular post on Sunday and plan to post it early Sunday afternoon. I think many of you know I will be having surgery Monday morning (10:00 EST) so if you think about it prayers would be appreciated. I trust the doctors and nurses, but also want the Great Physician’s guidance for them and healing for me. Jo and Tami will be waiting so please say a prayer for them as well.

I’m not sure what kind of week I will have. Up to this point in my life, God has granted me the ability to recover quickly from surgery. I’m praying this will be the same. I know there will be restrictions and I have absolutely NO DOUBT Jo will make sure I hold to them-30 days of no cycling (her particular favorite); no lifting more than 10 pounds; and no bending at the waist. I think the latter will be the hardest.

Why surgery? In spite of being told to stop telling my story, I can’t and I won’t. After all it is now my story.  On Monday, November 7, 2016 I was riding my bicycle when I was hit by a cowardly hit-n-run driver. I recovered fairly quickly from that…or so I thought. There were some immediate effects and then some residual effects which showed up later. One of them was the back issue I am now having to have surgery for. It is my understanding the doctor will be going in to shave the disc as well as the bone spurs which appear to be impinging the nerves. Hopefully, 45 minutes or so later, it will be over with and my nerve pain an issue in the past.

My incident with disaster has led me to become involved in and an advocate for 3FeetPlease. I have distributed stickers, shirts, information, and bears to local bike shops in the hopes that Indiana will join other states (like Ohio and Arizona and others) to enact a “3 Feet Law.” To help me out this week I have asked some others for their help. My first guest will be Dave Waechter, who leads the 3FeetPlease organization. I’ve asked him to write something I can post. His story is gut-wrenching. I have also asked someone many of you are familiar with, Floyd, from theregoI to write a post. He has two stories within a story. Dave will post late Monday/early Tuesday and Floyd will post late Tuesday/early Wednesday.

I’m also having a give away. I am randomly giving away this bear from any who comment or respond to any of the posts this week. I have 6 bears to give away so the more you respond, the better chance you have. Also, thanks to Dave’s graciousness, two T-shirts will be given away (one by him and one by me). If you win, I’ll contact you and ask for your size and address and send it to Dave who will mail it to you.

THE BEAR:

THE SHIRT:

All week long. You have a chance to hear some terrific stories. You also have a chance to win a bear for yourself or as a gift (which I just did and hope to have a picture for you).

Meanwhile, your prayers for surgery and recovery will be much appreciated.

Countdown

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

No…I am not going to play one of my favorite “secular” songs for you. I usually save that for the last post of the year or the first post of a year.

It’s not the countdown that is already beginning around here for the first day of school. (August 8th…seriously?)

It’s not the countdown toward the Pittsburgh Pirates march to the World Series. (No comment from the peanut gallery).

It’s another type of countdown. One that ends with a request.

As many of you know, I was hit by a car going about 60 mph while riding my bike on November 7, 2016. I rebounded pretty quickly from that… or so I thought. About 2 months ago my left hip started hurting and since then I have been through 4 diagnoses- with the last one the one that matters. A sciatic nerve issue. Nope. A slightly herniated disc (somewhat close). An unbalanced sacrum. (Possible but not the culprit). The final one involved an MRI which showed a bulging disc and bone spurs which were combining to squeeze the nerve in my vertebrae. The hit-n-run did not cause it but did accelerate it. Long story short I’ll have surgery on Monday, July 24th. They will be going in to shave off the bulging part of the disc and shave the spurs to open space for the nerve. People ask me if I’m nervous. The answer is no. If they knew the pain I was in; the sleep I wasn’t getting; the effort it takes to get dressed; and a myriad of other things, they wouldn’t ask that question. I’m looking forward to it. I trust my doctor. I trust my nurses. I trust Jo to take care of me afterwards. Most of all, I trust God to guide the hands and eyes of those doing the surgery. There can always be complications…I choose not to think of that. I choose to look forward to resuming my life. I will be out of commission for at least 30 days, i.e. no cycling, no lifting, no bending at the waist (may be the hardest of all), and generally taking it easy.

There is one downside to it right now. And here is where you come in. No meds. That means (in my case) no ibuprofen for 2 weeks prior to surgery.  I abhor pain medicine. The doctor gave me a nerve-deadening med which helped zero…or so I thought. It may have been helping more than I thought. Needless to say I could use some prayers as I wait for the surgery, not for my fear (because I have none) but for some pain relief. And you can also be praying that I will be able to rebound quickly. Thanks.