Story

...now browsing by category

 

#ChristmasChallenge#Post3

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

I read something this morning that got my wheels spinning. It was something I had never really thought much about. So I’d like to put it out there for you to think about.

First, let me say this: I am not a political person. I hate politics. I hate talking about it. I won’t blog about it. So you may ask, “If so, Bill, why this devotion?” Because I don’t believe the “baby in the womb” is a political discussion; it is a moral one. With that being said, I give you this devotion.

It struck me today that when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was already six months pregnant, Luke 1:39-45 records part of their interaction. Verse 41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Not bad for a blog, a mass of nothingness. I’m being sarcastic-yes. The baby (John) leaped in her womb. That being-whom some say is not alive, viable, or a person-recognized who just came into the room. Not Mary but Jesus! Not only is Elizabeth humbled with the visit from Mary, but her next words reveal even more: “And why is this granted that the mother of my lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” WOW!! If there was any question who Mary’s baby was that answers it. And if there was any question about the personhood of a baby in a womb, that question is answered also.

Person or blob. There should be no question.

“Father, thank you for this account. In a different way than normal, you have shown me the personhood and the awareness of a baby in the womb. May I react the same way John did when I am in the presence of Jesus.”

Please check out two others who are taking on the challenge:

Ed here

Diane at Hadarah.

 

#ChristmasChallenge#Post2

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Seriously? vs You’ve Got to be Kidding!

One of the weaknesses of someone with my personality (very much a Sanguine) is the tendency to take things at face value.  Some would call it naivete’. Someone says something to me and I tend to accept it.  Now, given some time I may change my outlook or perspective, but initially acceptance not skepticism is the order of the day.

That’s why the story of Zechariah (Z from here on) and the story of Mary are contrasts to me. Hence, the title.

  • Both were going about their daily life.
  • Both found themselves in the presence of an angel.
  • Both received a message so incredulous it was stunning!
  • One responded with doubt and skepticism; the other with acceptance.

Both Z and Mary received word of a baby on the way. Z balked. Doubted. Mary questioned. Believed. They both asked “Seriously?” but in their own way. Z’s ended up being more of a “You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment, while Mary’s was “So be it. I am yours.”

What will mine be? What will yours be? Will mine be like Z: Seriously? You have got to be kidding me!” or will it be more like Mary’s: “Seriously? I’m yours Lord. Have your way.”

“Father, may my response to your message at this time of the year be like Mary’s. Stunned but yielding to You.”

Be sure to check out Ed’s post here.  He has accepted the Christmas challenge.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post1

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

I’m going to try something I did several years ago. It was a good exercise for me in that it kept me focused. My plan is to post a new Christmas thought each day for this month. It could be a poem. It could be a song. It could be a written thought. It could be a spiritual thought or it could be one that is not spiritual in nature but has a focus on Christmas.

Since today is December 1 it calls for a post that will focus us on the importance of the season. The past few days I have listened to some random Christmas music and heard this song for the first time. Unfortunately there is no video with lyrics so I am unable to show that. However, the song is beautiful and clear.

Enjoy listening to it here.

Would anyone else like to join me in this challenge? I’d love to share links with each other.

#ItBegins#EssentialTruth#Don’tMissIt!

Saturday, November 30th, 2019

And so it begins…

The race to Christmas. Much of the way we celebrate Christmas finds its roots in our younger years. We carry traditions with us. Some we ditch; some we keep observing.

Growing up nothing we ever put out except the lights. No tree. No gifts. No nothing. But when we woke up Christmas morning the whole house, especially the living room had been transformed. We don’t do that today. Our tree goes up Thanksgiving Day or the day after and stays until the day or two after Christmas.Gifts are placed under the tree as they are wrapped.

Growing up we were taught not to use our Christmas gifts (except for games) until after the real tree was taken down. We don’t that one either.

We NEVER opened a gift until Christmas morning. We don’t do that one either, however, I did get Jo’s family to compromise. One gift on Christmas Eve; the rest Christmas morning.

One fact is a constant though: the meaning of Christmas has never changed. The teaching of that meaning has never changed. The impact of that meaning has never changed either.

Just as there is a backstory to each of our histories of Christmas, there is a backstory to the story of Christmas as well. Christmas didn’t start at the manger; it started years before we can conceive. Before the OT.  This story was formed before recorded time and if we were somehow able to put it on the silver screen there would be no CGI or animation able to convey it.

I have given my series for this month the title of “Don’t Miss It!!” Each sermon (4) will be one aspect of Christmas which is so important we dare not miss it.  It would be a tragedy if we did. This Sunday my sermon will be taken from John 1:1-14 and my aim is to show the essential truth of Christmas.  A.W.Tozer once said:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

When you think about Christmas what is the first thing that comes to your mind? My desire is to lay the groundwork for a meaningful Christmas by presenting the essential truth of Christmas. May you know that as well. I would appreciate your prayers.

#Atheism#Confrontation#BadRep

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In one of my posts last week I reviewed two books dealing with abuse. You can read that here. Bookending those two books were two books of similar vein on a subject, but approaching it from different perspectives.  I had this first book and then read the two on abuse, but I needed to get away from that subject for a bit so I read the book which is my second review.  I’m now reading a totally different book because I like variety as well as needing a more biblical study.  So here are my reviews of the two books.

My first is Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion

Rebecca was not raised in “Christian” America, but in the UK. Her Christianity was not handed to her on a silver-plated American Christianity platter (my words not hers). But trust me when I say she is nobody’s lackey.  This woman is smart and knows her stuff. Her book is subtitled 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion and she delivers the goods. I wondered if I would be overwhelmed by the sheer “brain power” she brings to the table. I am happy to say Rebecca has done an excellent job of making it so that even we who are not deep thinkers can understand her writing. This book is so good I have given one copy to my small group leader, one to a searching college student, and have another copy for someone I love. Here are just a few of the questions she asks and answers (masterfully I believe) :

  • How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
  • Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
  • How Can You Take the Bible Literally?
  • Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Isn’t Christianity Homophobic? {Note: Rebecca admits to her former struggle with SSA so she writes from an “insider’s” viewpoint.}
  • How Can a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?

That’s just half the questions. This is one of my nominees for “Book of the Year” (as if I have any say).  I love Rebecca’s writing style and her attention to the answers. Never harsh but always engaging. I do believe you will benefit from this book.

I followed Rebecca’s book with another that intrigued me: Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp (MJ). 

Why I Still Believe: A Former Atheist’s Reckoning with the Bad Reputation Christians Give a Good God

Her book is subtitled “A Former Atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” The book is aptly titled. MJ came from a non-religious home and chose atheism, but eventually came to know Jesus as her Savior. (You can read the book’s introduction for her story).  How she stayed with Jesus and the church is a miracle in itself (in my book anyway). The day she came to church with her husband to declare her choice to follow Christ, the pastor’s wife did not welcome her or congratulate her but to tell her she needed to wear a different dress-one that showed less cleavage. She doesn’t say whether it did or not, but I would have probably turned around and walked out. Eventually, she and her husband found themselves involved in ministry full-time (he was a worship leader). Meanwhile, she is struggling with Christians who are giving God and the church a bad name. One heart-breaking example (and one which made my blood boil) came when she brought a friend who was an atheist-seeker to church and he was literally blown off and embarrassed by the self-righteous teacher and the pastor of the church (who publicly humiliated him) because he dared ask a question which challenged their way of thinking. From her own awkwardness of defending her belief in the resurrection with a co-worker (she is a music teacher in a public school); to learning about Islam (a great discussion and info on Islam is included) from her dear friend, the late Nabeel Qureshi; to her confidence in apologetics, she never loses sight of her purpose: how annoying and “turn-off-ish” many Christians can be. I’d have to say it is a good thing she had a pretty solid faith and a good husband who helped her stay grounded. 

MJ’s book was different from Rebecca’s in that it took on issues facing the church within, whereas Rebecca’s focused more on questions from without. MJ’s book read easily also. And she gave some great answers along the way in a very clear style.

I would highly recommend both of these books be part of your reading list. If you know of someone who is struggling with their faith or have questions about hypocrisy within the church, have them read these.

#Servant#Don’tForget#3Essentials

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Ever since 2009 the church I pastor has had a Day of Service (DoS). It is a day where we serve the community.  Our first one was humble in its efforts but very successful. We changed oil and did some light mechanical work as well as help people who were unable to get things done to their houses (prepare for winter, clean up after the flood, and more). We missed a year or two as we found our footing at our newly purchased building but eventually we “got it going” again. Then we saw the need to do two a year. We invited another church to join us and then two others. They fizzled out before they started but the first invite (The Connection) formed a great working relationship with us. The Spring DoS was cleaning up after winter’s havoc, preparing flowerbeds, and general maintenance. The Fall DoS involved the mechanical work on vehicles, cleaning gutters, as well as getting ready for winter. This year (2019) we had one in the Spring but had some unfinished work so OVCF took it upon ourselves to finish the two jobs that needed done.  Our last 2-3 efforts also involved the Owen County Chamber of Commerce.

All things change. After the two very tedious jobs this year which required a lot of man hours, I started feeling unsettled about asking our people to go to the well one more time. Then I studied for the first letter in Revelation-the letter to the church at Ephesus- where Jesus commended them for their hard work and service, but had one thing against them: they had left their first love. So I started praying and meditating on that and realized those words were very relevant to us. So during that sermon I told them my thoughts and that I was calling off the DoS (It was considered “my baby” by the others) for the Fall. I “felt” God was saying, “Bill, you guys have been so busy doing for Me, it is time to just be with me.”  So this Sunday we are having an afternoon of a Guided Prayer Time through different “stations” in our building. From 1-3:30 this place will truly be a Holy Place. My next post will tell you more about it.

But I decided to carry on with my initial sermon for that Sunday and to develop a whole month of sermons. My theme is “Servants” and my Scripture this Sunday is from Micah 6:6-8.  The Scripture tells us three items every follower of Christ (a servant) needs to have:

  • Do justice
  • Love mercy
  • Walk humbly with God

I would appreciate your prayers for me this weekend. I would especially love it if you would pray for the church as we meet. Learning to be a servant who does those three acts is absolutely essential.

I will be closing the sermon with this song.  Hope you enjoy it.

#ClearEyes#20/20#Brightness

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

“The eyes have it.” Oops that is supposed to be the “I’s” have it. 

Unless, of course, you are talking about cataract surgery which totally transforms one’s sight world. This past Monday I had my left eye’s cataract removed. I knew I was in for a real treat given that I had had my right eye corrected the week before. My world brightened some. But I can honestly say I was not prepared for the “revelation” that came from yesterday’s surgery. Talk about bright!  I told someone this morning (Tuesday) it was like walking into a room filled with new LED bulbs. Everything is so bright I wonder how in the world I was able to see before. I was…it was just cloudy. The doctor told me this morning that in a few days my brain will dial in the sights and it won’t seem so bright.  Truthfully, I’m not sure I want that!  🙂  I like seeing things brightly. Maybe it comes from seeing things a little “shady” and cloudy for the past oh-so- many-months that I relish the light. Can you tell I’m excited about my surgery and newfound “bright sight”? 

The applications to our spiritual lives are easy to see.  An early worship song that was sung a lot had the lyrics: “Open the eyes of my heart Lord/ Open the eyes of my heart/ I want to see you/I want to see you.”  Seeing him physically is not going to happen here on this earth so the song is not speaking of that type of sight. But asking Him to open the eyes of our heart to His Word and His Truth will bring clarity to our lives where before there was cloudiness and murkiness. 

We also can see another application. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  (I Cor.13:11) Going from cloudy sight to bright and clear sight means I can give my old glasses to the Lion’s Club to give them away to someone who needs them. I can see things through a different perspective. Someone told me the colors would be brighter; the lights would be brighter; and I would need sun glasses. I confirm all three of those.  Growing in Christ means putting away the old stuff and see things through new eyes.

I sure can see how the man blind from birth must have felt when he first saw “men as trees walking” and then began to see everything with clarity. I thank God for my eyes. But I thank Him even more for the gift of sight for Him. May He and His Word and His will get clearer as each day goes by.

Any thoughts?   Oh, by the way: how is your (spiritual) vision these days?

#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

#OutofCommission#UGH

Monday, October 7th, 2019

In my weekend post I alluded to the fact that I have been crazy busy but it will soon slow down. Well…that slow down will begin occurring this week.

I began last week preparing for a procedure they want all 50+ year olds to have. My earnest prep took place today as I had to limit even more of what I ate or drank. Translated that means I ate nothing solid and drank some nasty stuff as well as a prep drink for a procedure which takes place tomorrow morning (Tuesday). I’m not a rookie with this procedure…unfortunately. I have had 4 of these and each time they have found polyps that required removal and diagnostic lab work. They have come back okay except a few were “pre-cancerous” so I submit myself to this on a regular basis. I have told Jo if doing this procedure  would keep me from getting colon cancer I would do it every 6 months…although I don’t want any doctor becoming that familiar with me. 🙂  So I would appreciate your prayers for protection during the procedure and a good report afterwards. So Monday and Tuesday I will be out of commission, especially Tuesday.

Wednesday we head to Ohio to celebrate my birthday (Wednesday the 9th) and to watch our grandson play his last football game this year on Thursday night. It has been the only one we have been able to see.

Then on the 14th and 21st it is actually a good “out of commission.” I am having eye surgery for cataracts which will allow me to GET RID OF MY GLASSES! I have worn them since I was in 4th grade and so I look forward (pun intended) to not having to wear them! No more cycling with sweat running down my glasses and my eyelashes spreading sweat all over my glasses! No more cutting grass or working outside and having to wipe sweat off so I can see! No more waking up and reaching for my glasses first thing! Can you tell I’m excited?

Finally, Braden turns 13 on the 17th and we wouldn’t miss his teen birthday for anything. So off to Ohio we go.

Whew! What slow down? Looks like another cruise to Alaska is in order. Donations accepted.  🙂  Just kidding.

That’s not all for this month but that’s enough for now. What does your month look like?

#Forgiveness#WhatJesusdoes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

It seems to happen more than we know. Certainly more than we like to hear. Someone being shot/killed by accident. Honestly, I do not know the whole story behind this trial. I admittedly hide my head in the sand when it comes to reading much news. But when I saw this on a blog I read I felt I needed to pass it along. I can’t take credit for this so I’m just going to give you the link to the other blog and ask you to go there.

So here is the link to the other blog:

If we as Christ-followers practiced more of this, imagine what a difference we would make. Oh yeah…bring your kleenex.