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#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.

#Calling#Shepherd#Presence

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

This post is a little bit of both worlds: the world of the “big church” and the world of “I’m a shepherd.” They will intertwine so I hope I don’t totally confused you. 🙂

When I started on my journey as a pastor while I was still in college (1972), I admit to total “duncity.” I know that is not a word but that is the way I would describe myself. Clueless might make more sense. What did I know? It was the summer following my Sophomore year and I was asked to preach at a country church-Mt Camel Christian Church in Mt. Sterling, KY. It was 100 miles away from the school. I worked all week and then would head down either sometime Saturday or very early Sunday morning. It was aptly named…it was at the top of a mountain.

As I graduated and became more acclimated to the pastor’s life, I began to see that I was to be a shepherd of the people. I took that seriously, sometimes too seriously, at the sake of my family. I was gone a lot. I didn’t know any better, plus that was the day and age of the visiting pastor. Office work all morning and visiting in the afternoon and many evenings. In my mind I was shepherding my people.

Then came Church, Inc. That was the time in the 90s when being a pastor switched gears. We were no longer shepherds; we were CEO’s. How can I say this? EPIC FAIL for me. And in my mind EPIC FAIL for the church as a whole. I’m not going to mention any names of the gurus, but being a pastor was no longer about being a shepherd but being the “chief vision-giver” of the church. Frankly, I despise that moniker. For one, I don’t work well in a vacuum. I dream best when surrounded by others who can dream as well. Batting ideas off each other. Seeking God’s purpose and plan more than my own.  Not doing things and making decisions unilaterally (although I sometimes have too) but including others in the dreaming and planning process.

Somewhere along the line I came full circle. The best part? I became a shepherd again. Granted I don’t go like I used to. Safety issues (translate that #MeToo, etc)  have changed the way I do ministry. I no longer see females alone, in my office or in their house or at a meal in a restaurant. If they can’t say it with Jo around, they don’t need to be telling me. (She or someone will at least be in the building if I meet with them at the office). But being a shepherd has allowed me to once again adopt something I read from Skye Jethani’s book, Immeasurable:

When I enter the room, I represent the presence of God.

That is especially true of visitation in a hospital or nursing home. I am Jesus to many- and honestly?- that is a very scary thought. But it is true. I am their shepherd and I represent Jesus. No CEO type pastor who sits in an ivory tower; is isolated from people; or looks down on people from “the sacred office” can say that.  I had to learn the hard way that I was wired to be a shepherd.

I would rather represent Jesus any day than some stuffy Church, Inc organization. You can’t put a price on people’s lives and hearts. No matter how badly Church, Inc wants to do that. So leave me out of the Global Leadership Summit and other Church, Inc gatherings. “Father, give me a heart for the people of OVCF.”

I apologize for the length of this “rant.” Thanks for reading this far.  If you have gone this far, I’d sure like to know what your thoughts are.

#Caring#Empathy

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

I have been a pastor for over 45 years. In those years if I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times (and wish I had asked for $1 every time I did! I could retire and live off the interest. 🙂 ). The statement I have heard often from both nurses and even doctors is “Doctors and nurses make the worst patients.” I’ve seen cool, calm and collected nurses under extreme pressure melt when it comes to their own treatment.  I’m guessing it is one of those “I know too much” kind of deals. You know…they know what all could go wrong.

When I had my bike wreck in February of 2017 I spent 8 hours in the hallway of the Bloomington Hospital ER. Even though I had gotten there mid afternoon, I waited. It was a Friday in IU town. Although in and out of it due to pain, I was aware of the screaming person in one of the rooms due to drugs. I was aware I was put off for treatment or x-rays because a college student came in high and had an accident. And while I have my thoughts about being pushed aside for stupidity, I found something else.

E.M.P.A.T.H.Y

I was on the receiving end of delayed treatment. I laid in that hallway for 8 hours being pushed aside for others. Broken collarbone. 3 broken ribs. Multiple contusions to my face and hands and legs, i.e. road rash (but fortunately not a head injury due to my helmet which was split in 3 places). I now know what it is like when people tell me they sat or laid in the ER for hours waiting for treatment. Been there done that.

Empathy is a great gift. It allows one to know what another is going through and to feel with them. I’m reminded of the Scripture which says, “He was in all points tempted like we are yet without sin.” Imagine that! Jesus, the perfect, divine, virgin born Son of God knows what I am going through and how I struggle with sin.  He is not some far-off or far-out dude; He is the “close by and I understand what you are experiencing” Savior.

How are you with empathy? Do you feel it when others hurt? Do you take the time to let them know you are thinking of them (without telling your whole story)? As a follower of Christ we are told to cry when others cry; to laugh when others laugh; and to feel when others feel.  How well are you doing?

#LoveLost#FirstLove

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

My sincere apologies for not getting this posted sooner. As many of you know we spent September 2-10 on our trip to Alaska. We arrived home after midnight on the 10th and I played catch-up the rest of the week. But tomorrow is Sunday and I have to be ready to go! I am…in principle. Now all I have to do is get my head and heart in the game. 🙂

I start a new series this week which I am calling Postcards. It will be a seven week series on the 7 churches of Revelation and the letters, i.e. postcards Jesus sent to each of them. Ryan did a great job of introducing God’s idea of the church last week as a lead-in to this series. I’m glad I have someone like him who is so dependable and able to present God’s Word. He’s a good one. 🙂

This week I have titled the sermon “To the Loveless Church.” The city of Ephesus had so much going for it as being one of the greatest cities to live in at that time. Economically. Culturally. Historically. Religiously (even though it was pagan).

The church at Ephesus had a lot going for it also. As you read Revelation 2:1-7 you can’t help but be struck by the commendation heaped upon them: their work, toil and patient endurance; they didn’t tolerate evil men; they hated the works of the Nicolaitans; and their motivation was spot on.

B…..U……T…..

The condemnation far outweighed the commendation. It is very clear. They left their first love. While they had all the outward show of being alive, they were dead inside. Their love for Jesus had grown cold. Their motivation should have been what Paul wrote: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It wasn’t, and therefore they were told in no uncertain terms “to repent or else.” Unfortunately, the “or else” happened and there is no longer a church in Ephesus.

Fighting this battle for “first place” is an ongoing one.  I hope to challenge all of us to renew our first love for Jesus.  I plan to play this song to help emphasize my point.

#Insignificant#Fulfilled#MediaPerception

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

It will seem strange to many of you who know me that I would actually write about social media. I have made no secret of the fact that I do not do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other “stuff” that is out there.  Years ago when Jo started up on FB to keep up with our daughters, I said something about maybe I ought to. She said, “No, you have your blog. I’ll do FB.” She was right about that. I do have this blog. Actually, now I have two. The other is called LivingintheShadow and it is a daily devotion I write.  And yes, you can subscribe!  Hint! Hint! 🙂  But as I’ve looked back and then observed all the junk going around, Jo was more prophetic than she dreamed.  While there were times I wished I was on FB and other social media, I now realize I’m not missing a thing. Not only do I spend enough time on my two blogs, I simply cannot imagine how much time I would be throwing away aimlessly gazing at a scrolling screen. I hear enough snarky, snide remarks made by other media and people that I can graciously plead innocence to when asked if I passed something along or if I saw this post or that comment. Please understand I am not against FB but the abuse of it (and certainly some of the restrictions they are imposing, especially on followers of Christ).

I’ve also noticed how much emphasis and self-worth is placed on the number of readers, tweeters, instagrammers (I know that is not a word), and other media counting efforts to know how many people put their significance on that number. UGH!  There are some who hit the despondency button if their post or tweet is not passed on or commented on by a certain number of people. And please don’t get me started on the amount of bullying and vicious remarks that are made which devastate people because of the faceless presence one can assume.

I get my fill of hearing or reading about celebrities with big mouths (please go ahead and do us all a favor and leave the country if you don’t like living here); who do outlandish things; brag about their exploits; etc. But we idolize them as though they have “the life.” The last I looked the life of the Christ-follower is much more significant than some celluloid hero who acts the part of a superhero but lives the life of a lost soul. I’m thinking the animated film Balto actually is a more accurate story of life on the screen than any Marvel Universe project ever is.

And while I am on this whole social media rant, what is this thing that children and adults are glued to their screens, even at a meal? Dudes (and dudettes) put the screens away. Look someone in the eye and talk to them. I have to admit that my job as a pastor keeps me near my phone but I silence it during a meal. If it rings and is not important it can either go to voice mail or I can text later. Only three people do I respond to: Jo, Tami and Janna. Braden is in school so I don’t have to worry, but if his or Jason’s name shows up I will answer it.

Maybe it is time we practice what Jim Elliott, the martyred missionary once said: “Wherever you are, be all there.” I wonder what he would say today to gadgets he would not even had dreamed about!

I’d like to hear what your thoughts are.

#Test#HardestTask#MajorRoadblock

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

In your mind, what is the hardest thing you have done or need to do?  I’m not going to beat around the bush on that question. I think one of the hardest things anyone has to do is to learn to forgive.

I have heard this quote or some variation of it for years:

To err is human, to forgive, divine-to forgive and forget supernatural.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the movie called Love Story, which starred a very young Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.  It was a blockbuster hit for those days (1970) and was actually the first date Jo and I had (it didn’t end well). It contained one of the dumbest statements that I think has ever been made: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Now…that statement assumes that a real relationship will never require saying, “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness should just happen. There should be no special initiative on the part of either party.

But I beg to differ.  I hope we are all smart enough to realize any relationship takes time. Marriage. Friendship. Pastor/sheep. And I would be remiss if I left out the part forgiveness plays in any relationship. Forgiveness is never easy, especially when a great wrong has been done to you.  Makes you wonder about Joseph doesn’t it?

I believe this may have been his hardest task. This week’s sermon covers that time of his life when his brothers come seeking grain because of the famine. He recognizes them immediately but they don’t recognize him. There is quite an exchange which takes place until his “great revelation.” It will be a challenging sermon for all of us. I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare.  Thanks.

#Done#Finished/UnfinishedBusiness

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

The 2019 BikeMS is history. After a long wait and months of training and fund-raising, the ride was this past Saturday. Dave, my friend from 3 Feet Please, made the trip from Arizona with his son and daughter. Chris drove with him; Nina flew in Thursday. We met up at the hotel Thursday night. It was mine and Jo’s first time meeting Chris and Nina. They were a delight! Chris’ first words were to Jo when he said, “I heard you like Mexican!” Guess where we ate supper Thursday night?  🙂  If you guessed El Toro in Indianapolis give yourself a virtual high five!!

Friday we drove to the site of the ride, checked out some things, registered, then Dave and his two took off to visit relatives in Fort Wayne. Jo & I drove the route so I could check it out then spent the rest of the day just chilling.

Saturday started out beautifully. We made it to Lebanon and Dave set up the 3 Feet Please tent and merchandise. He was giving away bears and t-shirts and had a drawing for 3 winners. We finally took off for our ride and 9 miles out the young lady who was riding with us (and was ill-prepared) had a flat. That took close to 1/2 hour to finally get on our way. She went flat again about a mile down the road and we finally made it to the first stop where they replaced the tube. She didn’t flat again but we were way behind. By the time we got to the lunch stop we had ridden about 2 miles in a steady rain. While there it came down in buckets and we were told we would be unable to leave until 3:00. It was 1:45 at that point.  Dave and I made a decision to call it a day. The young lady could not have made it back and staying with her (we would never leave her) would have gotten us back to the home place about 5:00. So after 38+ miles we called our rides (Jo & his son) to come get the three of us.  Although I was disappointed in not doing all 65 miles (which I think might have ended up closer to 76), I was content.

I’m thankful for:

  • Many of you who donated to a great cause. MS can strike anyone at any time. I rode for Kirby and Marge and everyone else who suffers from this disease. I was able to raise $1100.
  • A safe ride. Roads are not closed off just because there are a plethora of riders.  Dave’s friend, Lynn, was killed on an MS ride by a 93 year old man who thought he could pass a ton of riders at one time and when he found out he couldn’t swung back in taking out Dave and Nina on their tandem and hit Lynn so hard she flew over them.
  • Dave, Chris and Nina for making our weekend extra special. Dave paid for our two nights in the hotel which allowed us the opportunity to relax and not do a lot of driving. It allowed me to study some on Friday so I wouldn’t be so tired and ill-prepared for Sunday. The three also made their way to OVCF to worship with us Sunday and go to lunch before he took Chris and Nina to the airport.
  • Dave came to Spencer yesterday (Tuesday) to ride with me. We were able to get in 20 before the skies told us we better cut this short and get to the church building (where we left from). That might have been one of the smartest decisions I have made lately. The skies opened up shortly after we got there. We would have been soaked to the bones. It was fun riding with a friend whom I’ve come to love like a brother. (Now we just gotta get to Arizona. Sounds like a great January/February trip).

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the three of us in our 3 Feet Please cycling kit. But I did get two pictures of our help.  On the left is Jo, Chris and Nina. On the right is Chris and Nina. (In the back is my bike).  Marge also helped but was not in the picture (by choice, hence the empty chair).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all it was a great day and a great experience. An absolutely fun weekend spent with friends and some down time with Jo. Lord willing, I hope to ride again next year. So start saving your pennies! I am!!!  🙂 🙂 🙂

#Prison#PrisonLife#NoLongerSlaves

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Talk of prison and people’s thoughts will immediately go to Alcatraz, some military prison, or some form of incarceration. When Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to rape her and he put Joseph in prison, it wasn’t a 5-star hotel. The Scripture specifically tells us he put Joseph where Pharaoh’s enemies were put. True to his nature and God’s blessing on his life, Joseph excelled. He overcame his prison life.

In truth, most people will never see the inside of a prison cell. They just live in a prison. Due to circumstances, expectations of others, guilt, pessimism or some other “bothersome” issue, they live in a prison of their own making, one without physical bars.

I’m going to focus on that kind of prison this week during my sermon. As followers of Christ we are no longer slaves to fear or to the enemy or his efforts to keep us down. I’ll be working on very short rest and am anticipating with a very tired body. I’d appreciate your prayers.

Here is a song for your enjoyment: https://youtu.be/2QigyB50yGw

*******************

After waiting for almost 8 months the BikeMS ride is this weekend in Lebanon, IN. Dave (from 3 Feet Please) is coming from Arizona to ride with me and his two adult children are coming to volunteer.  Jo and I left Thursday for Indy to spend the night in the hotel in Indy and to meet up with them. Jo plans to also help with the volunteer table for 3FP. Dave and I plan to do the 65 mile portion of the ride.  This is a fundraiser for MS and thanks to many of you and your generosity, I have been able to raise $1100 this year. Thank you so much!!  I do appreciate it more than you know but will appreciate your prayers even more. 65 miles will be double what I have been able to do (due to time constraints) at one time this year. Safety and health or my primary concerns. Thanks.  Here are pictures of the partners in crime.