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#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. 🙂

#MyChallenge

Monday, June 29th, 2020

My sermon yesterday was on God. How He promises the impossible and does the incredible.  I used several Scriptures during the message.

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard from You!” Jer.32:17

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jer.32:27  (Rhetorical question from God)

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Gabriel’s words to Mary in Luke 1:37

“What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  Jesus’ words to the crowd in Luke 18:27

David and Goliath. (Was a little boy really supposed to even have a chance against a veteran soldier who was also a giant?)  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace. Daniel in the lion’s den.  Moses parting the Red Sea. God was a God of miracles, One who did things way beyond what could be imagined.

He made the promise: “Nothing is too hard for me.” He kept it. He still does.  My challenge to the folks yesterday and to me was to trust God with what seems to be impossible situations. He promised He would come through. His track record is impeccable. 

Join me. Won’t you?

#EmptyTank?#FreshSupply

Friday, June 26th, 2020

It was the summer of 1983. We were living in Indiana pastoring a church that was as legalistic as the day is long. I was dying and after 4 months told Jo we needed to get out of there. (It would be another year before that happened…all in God’s good timing).  At the encouragement of some from the church, our family went camping at a family camp in Ohio.

First time camping.

Last time camping.

A storm came through the last day (Thursday) and soaked all our stuff. So we packed up the next day to head home when I looked at the gas gauge and it was 1/2 full.  Doesn’t sound bad except we barely had enough money for a breakfast drive-thru for the kids and faced a 4-5 hour drive home. Poor planning on my part for sure. So I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed. H.A.R.D. Miraculously we arrived home and the gas gauge HAD NOT MOVED.  Trust me when I say that loaded down Chevy Citation wasn’t that good on gas! When we got home we knew we would need to buy groceries. I got paid Sunday. It was Friday.  I went to the mailbox and there was a check for $75 from a friend who was a pastor at a church in Ohio. I had spoken at the church’s men’s breakfast in December and he just then realized I had not been paid. I didn’t expect to be.  Remember: this is July. God came through!

How easy it is to forget God’s goodness.  Sometimes we come to the end of our road and rope. We have nothing left. Our tank is empty. We are barely hanging on. For pastors and leaders they call it burnout.  Some might use the words “I’m fried.”  This COVID thing has put a lot of people on edge or on the edge of emotional turmoil. I’d like to draw your attention to the God who promises the impossible and does the incredible.  Oops, now I’ve just gone and given you my two main thoughts for Sunday’s sermon. But you can still listen to see how they are fleshed out! 🙂

My sermon Sunday is from John 6:1-14, the feeding of the 5000. I’m calling it Supply for an Empty Tank.  If you are unable to be there you can check it out on the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.  If neither appeals to you (shame on you! LOL) then please say a prayer for me. I do appreciate those.

#Where’sBill?#GreatDisappearningAct

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

I’ve been largely absent from this blog this week. Okay…I haven’t been here at all, except to tell myself I ought to post something. I could shoot you all kinds of excuses but you might think I’m just blowing smoke. I don’t smoke so it can’t be that.  It’s just plain being busy.

Ryan is out of the office this week. I told him several weeks ago I expected him to find a week where he, Hope and the kids can get away. No office. No media (although I have no control over his phone use).  He has been working hard through this whole COVID thing trying to stay in touch with the kids. Lots of ZOOM meetings with them. Studying to make their time productive.  He even had an early Sunday morning time with the elementary kids! They sang; they danced (the kids did); he taught them and they loved it. He did too. But then he would rush to the church building and be one of the 4 who were here-Jo (Power Point); Tami (recording for FB); Ryan (sound and recording); and me (preaching…I think).  He took on the added responsibility of helping get our fledgling recording of the worship started and moving. He also had two weeks of Wilderness Week at our church camp cancelled (they cancelled the whole summer). So along with some frustration was some sadness.  He was tired and wore out.  So they went camping.

Today is his and Hope’s anniversary (#15 I think) and they decided to spend it together backpacking. Not to worry. They spent their honeymoon camping as they traveled cross country.  I affiliate with strange people you know? 🙂 In all honesty, there is no underestimating his value to the team. I am so grateful that he left a secure bank job to become our youth pastor. The dude knows how to minister. 

My week has been full with appointments, one that went way past my normal bedtime.  Yesterday I spent time visiting some folks who would love to be there on Sunday but are being cautious because of underlying health issues.  It was a fun afternoon. But when I do those things it takes me out of the office.

So…out of office…no blog. I know, I know. Makes you sadder than all get out. I love my job. I prefer to call it my calling. I love seeing people. It has been a good week.  I look forward to tomorrow except for the doctor’s visit at 7 a.m. which is a follow-up to lab work from last Friday. But I get to spend the day with Jo! That’s always good.

Hope your week was good. Anything you can share about it that will put a smile to my face?

#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. 

#Generosity#Covetousness

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Okay… so I have another blog that very few people read. It is a devotional blog where each day (except weekends) I post a devotional thought from my reading for the day. Or whatever comes across my mind that I feel led to share. I wrote about Generosity and Covetousness today. I’d love to have you visit that blog, read, and comment. You can find it here.

Seriously, I’d be honored if you would visit and comment there. Thanks.

#Manipulation#Critique#Toxic

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

I just finished reading When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas, a book I mentioned in my last post about Finding Freedom from Toxic People.  It has been a really good book, one that will take some time digesting and reading over the highlighted thoughts and sections. I want to use one of the thoughts as a springboard for this post.

If you are like me you tire-and I mean really tire-of people accusing us of basically being mean and narrow and bigoted.  You say something they don’t agree with and you can hear it coming from a million miles away: “Aren’t you Christians supposed to forgive? How come you aren’t acting like a Christian?” Or they will say, “You are nothing more than a narrow, bigoted hypocrite.”  To quote Gary:

They don’t really care if we’re acting like a Christian though. They just want us to do what they want us to do, and they’re using our faith as a weapon to manipulate and control. (p.146)

I always find it interesting when someone who does not claim any allegiance to Christ or to Christianity or to Biblical principles tries to lecture us on those very same issues. Do you sense a disconnect here?  People like this are masters at lecturing or deciding for us how we are supposed to act AND YET they make no claim-they even scoff at the idea-of following Christ.  The problem as I see it is that the atheist or the non-conformist or the immoral person wants to spout off their junk, but when someone questions them or stands against them they rear their ugly head in shock and toxicity and shame-throwing. They are masters at lecturing us how we ought to behave and yet are unwilling to listen to the truth because it will go against their carefully crafted lifestyle and belief system.  They aren’t so much interested in me acting like a Christ-follower should as much as they want me and you to do what they want us to do.  Long story short: approve of their lifestyle and belief system and not counter them or make them feel guilty.

My purpose as a follower of Christ is to please God. To bring fame to His Name. To honor Him in all things.  I have to keep in mind my approval by others is not on the table. Don’t allow someone to manipulate you into playing his games by his rules.

#Anniversary#Celebration#Honored

Monday, April 20th, 2020

I took a break last week from posting on this blog except for the sermon. After posting on two blogs for over a month, a break was needed. Something happened yesterday that I wanted to share.

April 13th is a day that has significance to me.  On April 13, 1932 my mother was born. She went to be with Jesus in March of 2004. So when April 13th came this year, I thanked God for her influence in my life and then moved on. I am not a real sentimental person on things like that.

But something else happened on April 13th. To honor her in one of the biggest ways I could think of, April 13, 1975 was the day I chose for my ordination into the ministry. I had been preaching since I was a Sophomore in college (1972) but that was my official day of being licensed as a pastor. I had heard of it while in college but I didn’t like the reasons some of them did it: to be an official pastor which basically gave them a free ride on Vietnam. I can also remember my mom telling me not to become a pastor because of the respect and “fame” and honor given to clergy. Back then, pastors were seen as upright and worthy of respect. (My how times have changed!)  Anyway, when I saw how some acted and talked and chased woman, I didn’t want to move too fast on this idea of being ordained (not that I did those things). I wanted it to be an occasion where I knew what I was doing and was serious about my calling.  As I reflect on those ideas today, I’m not sure I knew either! What I did know is that it was a big step for me.

So on April 13, 1975 I chose to honor my mother, whose influence on my faith is unquestioned, by being ordained on her birthday. Besides, as I got older I figured it would be easier to remember one date instead of two. Remembering Jo’s birthday and my two daughters was hard enough.  I’ve never made a big deal about special days in my life, except for my wedding date (which I am trying to remember…oh yeah, June 16, 1973) and the birth of my girls (June 3, 1975 and August 23, 1979).  Let’s see…mine is…oh yeah, October 9, 1952.  And I hereby refuse to publish Jo’s birthday since I value my life.  But trust me when I say she is a tad bit older than me, like from January 30, 1951 compared to mine. (But please don’t tell her I said anything! I love my life!!)

But I digress. Yesterday during the virtual morning worship, I welcomed people to the worship and moved away from the pulpit to let the first song play. It wasn’t the one I picked and looked up and it was a slide show Tami had put together honoring my 45th anniversary of ordination. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. To say I walked away to gather my emotions before standing before the people again might (not) be a lie. Anyway, I was honored and humbled she put this together. And I was especially honored folks responded.  It was hard to see via the FB worship so she has posted it on YouTube. It was public at first but she is taking it private. You have the extreme privilege (I’m humble too) to be given the link to watch it.  Here is the link. Hope you enjoy it. And yes, you will notice two people missing from it: Jo and Janna (my youngest).  Least Tami still loves me. 🙂

I have so many people to thank for 45+ years.  But most of all, I want to give praise, glory and honor to the ONE who called me into this high calling. He has been a beautiful picture of grace, forgiveness, patience, and transformation through all of this. And thank you Tami for doing this (she was last one).

#Lent#32

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Today, April 10,2020 is Good Friday. A day of sickness and death for many, but for people all over the globe it is a day with a different meaning,

From Darkness to Light.

From Pitch Black to Blinding Luminescence.

From Dark Rumbling Clouds to Glorious Sunshine.

From Hatred to Love.

From Loss to Gain

From Loser to Winner.

From Death to Life.

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s Coming!

#Lent#31

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Not growing up in a religious tradition that observed the traditional trappings of a holiday like Easter is a learning experience. No, I did not grow up as part of the Jehovah Witness cult. I grew up in an independent Christian Church that had two pastors from Moody. So you might as well say I grew up Baptist. However, I went away to a college from the independent group after getting a new pastor who favored that tradition (denomination), but claim no allegiance to anymore.  While I had heard of Good Friday and we often went to Good Friday services our church observed with other churches in the community, there were still some phrases and “special days” I was ignorant of.

I had never heard of or observed Lent. To me, lent was something you did for someone else. They wanted to borrow something so you “loaned” it to them.  You lent it to them. So when I got deeper into church work, I heard of Lent but still never made a big deal about it.

Speaking of Lent, how about Ash Wednesday? That was a new one to me as well. I do remember being in high school and one of my teachers, Mr. Bano, had this smudge mark in the middle of his forehead. I can remember sitting there wondering, “Does he know? Should I tell him?” The wiser Bill said to keep my business to myself. I reckon that was a good thing. He was Catholic and that was part of his tradition…but I didn’t know.

Today is a day called Maundy Thursday. What in the world is that? I found out it was the day Jesus washed the disciples’ feet during what is known as the Last Supper the night He was betrayed.  Maundy is from the Latin word which means “command” and finds its meaning in when Jesus told His disciples “A new command I give you; Love one another.”  Okay, sounds plausible although I still am lost as to why that has been made into a holy day.

Then there is Good Friday. As if the crucifixion can be seen as “good.” But you and I know it can and will continue to be for all those who know Jesus. While some skeptics call it cosmic child abuse, I call it “essential.” Without that cross, I have nothing. No forgiveness of sins. No answer to my shame. And then there is…

Resurrection Sunday!! Now THAT I know! Without it I have no hope, no purpose, no reason to live. So no matter what tradition you belong to-one that observes all the holy days of the last week of Jesus or one that doesn’t (like me then and now), the resurrection is the game-changer.  We are drawing closer to that celebration. Keep your eyes looking ahead. In fact, maybe you might want to keep one eye on the sky as well.