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Birth

Friday, December 14th, 2018

If you want to strike “fear” into many peoples’ lives, two words will do it. In many circles it will bring up memories of disagreements and shortness of tempers. Those two words:

VIRGIN BIRTH

Books, articles, essays, speeches, sermons, and a whole lot of other means of communication have been used in the discussion of the Virgin Birth: Pro or Con. I can honestly say men a whole lot smarter than me have gone ’round and ’round about it. I’m not well-versed in the deep defense of the VB. I just know this: God’s Word said it was how Jesus would come into the world, therefore, I believe it.

Just a few months ago we were treated (again) to another round of gaudiness and pomp and ceremony. A royal wedding of Prince whatever-his name is and his new wife, Meghan. Despite what the media and paparazzi says, they are mere human beings. Can you tell I am not a fan of their weddings? It lies in direct contrast with the entrance of Jesus into the world.

The attacks on the VB are monumental.  And ongoing-past, present and future. I’m not going to go into detail about the attacks, but the big question is Why? Simple actually: the VB is the line in the sand.  It is the line of demarcation. If someone denies the VB of Christ, IMHO I have every right to call into question the reality of their faith. The truth is that Jesus’ life did not begin at His birth or His conception. He is eternal and has always existed.

This Sunday I’m going to tackle the issue of the VB. In keeping with the “Light” theme, I’m calling it This IS the Light! John 1:1-14 will be my Scripture. Thanks ahead of time for your prayers.

Word

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Not “word” as in current vernacular.

But Word…as in “The Word.”

Word as in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with with God, and the Word was God.” (emphasis mine)

For the past 3 months I have been reading from John Piper’s Christmas devotion book, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy during my morning Quiet Time. It has been part of my attempt (along with Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him) to prepare my heart for the Christmas season. Piper’s devotion for December 12 struck a chord as I prepare to preach on the Virgin Birth this coming Sunday. His devotion was on “The Glory of the Word Made Flesh.”

Aside from the very obvious conflict I would have with the Jehovah Witness cult over their use of “the Word was a God,” (which totally destroys the whole idea of the Trinity…which they do not believe in), Piper’s devotion really focused on “the Word.” Piper’s point, which I thought was really good, is that it did not say:

  • “the Deed”: The whole idea of deeds being defining is ludicrous. If my words are questionable from time to time, deeds are even more wishy-washy. No one would ever know why I did what I did or do what I do unless, of course, I myself knew why.
  • “the Thought”: The difference between a word and a thought is that a word is expressed from me to you or you to me. Thoughts can be kept inside forever.  If Jesus was a thought then there would have been no communication.
  • “the Feeling”: WOW! Don’t get me started on this one! Can you imagine how fickle Jesus would be if he was nothing more than a feeling?

Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God expressing Himself to us. I’ll take that over a Deed, Thought, or Feeling any day.  Combine that with verse 14 of John 1: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I thank God for expressing Himself in Jesus, the Word made flesh. Any thoughts?

Unfiltered

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Don’t you just love genealogies? Aaaaah no. “As a matter of fact I usually just skip over them and go to the end. Sort of like I do when I’m reading all about the clans and offspring in Numbers.”

But there is one genealogy you just don’t want to skip over. I’m sure you know I’m speaking of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. I used to. I was lost at the first “begat.” You know…the old KJV version of “father of.” And honestly, when people want to talk about Christmas they want to talk about the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, Bethlehem, no room in the manger, or some other well known part of the story. But the genealogy? Surely you have got to be kidding!

But there it is in black and white and as glorious as it can be! There is the requisite “father of” found in all genealogies. But, as you may know, there are some women included in His. The culture of that day excluded women from any place of prominence, especially in the genealogy. But not Jesus’. I’m sure you have heard it before but here is what we find with the woman:

Tamar– disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah. Find her story in Genesis 38

Rahab– anyone who has read the story of Jericho knows her profession.  She was an idolatrous, an outcast Gentile woman, and a professional prostitute. She became the mother of Boaz who married our next woman.

Ruth– a Moabitess, a lineage that came as a result of incest. (Genesis 19). She married Boaz (Read the book of Ruth) and became David’s great grandmother.

Bathsheba– Is the anyone who does not know who she is? Just say “David.”

Mary- the mother of Jesus. A sinner like you and me. A virgin but still a sinner.  Definitely not perfect and definitely not deserving to be elevated to the heights with Jesus. She was in need of a Savior like all of us.

The genealogy of Jesus speaks of grace. It shows that God accepts outsiders. Like me. Like you.  The genealogy shows people with warts. It is unfiltered.

Grace is my main topic for this Sunday. The Unfiltered Light of Christmas. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Difference

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

We often hear people talking about “making a difference.” Their desire to make a difference will have one of two affects. One, they will think about it; stew over it; lament over the state of things; cry over it; even speak about it; but do nothing about it!

There are also those who want to make a difference and it will change them. No longer satisfied to sit on the sidelines, they will become advocates and fight for something.

That is not a political statement. I despise politics-government, home, church, sports, and anywhere else where there are people who think they can throw their weight around and get what think is theirs. Even if it means lying, cheating, slandering, gossiping, and a host of other ugly things.

Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 was not a political statement. Sheep on the right; goats on the left. Nope, not a political statement whatsoever. But it was a statement pertaining to following Jesus by caring for others. You have seen them: the hungry, naked, thirsty, lonely, in prison, homeless.  Making a difference in their lives is what Jesus is talking about. I asked a question Sunday: How do I make a difference?  How do I show compassion? I answered it this way:

Allow our heart to break.  Someone once said, “Break my heart with the things that break the heart of God.”  Melinda Gates, Bill’s wife, once said, “If you want to make a difference, you have to let your heart break.”

Ask God for a mission. Many missions are started because of personal experience. I’ve dreamed for years of opening a home for abused or “lost” woman. Our little community does not have the sex trafficking issue a big city does (at least that I know of) but alcohol and opioids have played havoc with families. Seems like daily I read of another bust or broken home and children finding their way to DCS. Scary thought that.

Making a difference starts with me. With you. And one person at a time. But we have to start.

Aftereffect

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

I remember watching MacGyver years ago and one of the scientific principles he used several times was “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I didn’t post yesterday (Monday) because I can attest to that.

This past Sunday we had our Day of Service (DoS). You can read about it here. But it was so much more than just an afternoon of serving. In my case, it was several months leading up to the day.  For the last few years I enlisted the help of another church since it was getting way too big just for me/us. My friend, James, an Associate Pastor of another church in town, came on board and has been invaluable. Last Spring the Owen County Chamber of Commerce joined us, as they did this time. (I am a board member of the Chamber also).  The Fall DoS entails a bit more since we not only rake leaves, clean gutters, and help get people ready for winter, we also do free oil changes for those who need them but can’t afford them. Invariably, there is one or two who need a bit more. So OVCF paid for 10 oil changes; a set of wiper blades and rear set of brakes for the same car; and an extensive look trying to fix a speedometer cable. Along with that we raked, cleaned gutters, etc for over 30 people. And trust me when I say there were plenty of leaves! Sycamore trees and maple trees abound in our town. Jo and I were going around encouraging and thanking people, but ended up staying at one place as we bagged and emptied huge contractor bags full of leaves 4 times! As it was I took 2 of the bags to put on the garden we have on the church property (one of our ladies started it). Then it started raining about 3:00 and I heard some of the folks were raking in the rain.

Here it is Tuesday and I’m still not done. Still some debriefing to do with James and Cassandra. Still some notes of thanks to be sent to some local folks (Babbs grocery and AutoZone) for their help. Oh yeah…rest. I was dead on my feet Sunday night and even dragged yesterday some. But its a good tired. A tired that comes from helping others. From knowing you were doing what Jesus would do (although I’m thinking He didn’t have gutters, leaves, air conditioners to move, weather stripping to install, or gardens to clean out). Then again…

Tired but satisfied. Tired but fulfilled. Tired but knowing we served as our Master would.

Reflections

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

This past weekend OVCF, the church I pastor, celebrated its 14th anniversary. OVCF was started when some people, who attended another church in town, were tired of “doing church” as they always have. It was birthed sometime in October of 2004.  Jo & I came in November of 2005.  I have been asked if I started/planted the church. I tell them No, but I sure feel like I did. They had not had a pastor for close to 9 months (he had only stayed about 3 before he felt he needed to move on); had no Mission or Vision to operate by; and did not have a lot of things in place. What they did have were some people eager to learn and serve.

I inherited both. We had a rough patch in 2009 caused by various reasons, but other than that, it has been a fun church to pastor.  In the first quarter of 2017 I watched several families choose to go elsewhere. One because of a move away from our area. They were dear friends of me and Jo and still are. I miss Ryan and his family.  One was because they were seeking the kind of “religious experience and high” we did not offer. They chose to put their stock in the NAR and some other questionable teachings.  Since then 2017-2018 has been up and down as we have tried to find our “wings.” Every church goes through those times. I’m a lot more patient and understanding of those times than I used to be. I figure God is in control and not me so there isn’t much I can do except continue to love and serve Him and the people He has given me to pastor.

With that being said, Sunday was a wonderful day of celebration and thanksgiving to God for what He has done! We had a great service (you can listen on podcast if you care to).  I’d be honored if you would take a moment to listen. We had tons-and I mean tons-of food! The Owen Country Chamber of Commerce came and did a ribbon cutting for our new youth addition. We had a meaningful dedication and then said a very weary “see you later” to the folks.  At the end of this post are 4 pictures of some of the changes made as a result of our addition. The first two are Before and After in our hallway. The Before is really not a true picture since I remembered to take the picture after the walls had been done. They had been covered in canvas. The next is a view of our new nursery with a door for access to a soon-to-be-finished playground for the little ones. The final one is the new security check-in for our youth addition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a good day.  I appreciate each one of you who prayed.

Bucket

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Once a month I read to Mrs. Lee’s Kindergarten class for what is called Real Men Read. There are a number of men in Owen County and Monroe County (and perhaps others) who go into a class to read to kindergarten students. This is my 3rd year now for taking part and I honestly believe that I receive more than the students do. Mrs. Lee does a wonderful job with the children and has them prepared for my visit. After the first year I requested the children wear name tags so I can call them by name. She willingly obliged.

But that is not why I am writing this post…although Mrs. Lee and her assistant deserve a lot of praise. It was the book I just read that I want to write about.

The name of the book was How Full is Your Bucket? It was a delightful book about a young boy named Felix whose grandfather told him that everyone has a bucket.  For every kind word said to them, a drop of water goes into their bucket. For any kind thing they say or do for someone else, water drops into their bucket but also into the one who gives the compliment. It works sort of like the old “change in the pocket” idea.

One day Felix was having a bad day and his bucket was about empty. His sister was not nice. He reached for and dropped a box of cereal. His mother yelled at him. A school bully was mean.  He was wiped out. Then came a class where the teacher praised him for his essay. A drop of water went into his bucket. The class loved his story-laughing and clapping when it was done. More water. Another student said something nice to him. Drop.  Soon Felix was complimenting people and putting water in their bucket, but also in his.  He came home with a full bucket. He even put water in his sister’s bucket by letting her build a tower out of his blocks.

The implications should be easy to see. Just one from me: encouragement goes a long way. Not only do we brighten someone else’s day, but we shine some light on our own. While we are putting drops of water in another’s bucket, we are also adding to our own.

I can attest to that. One of the most thrilling parts of my month is my visit to Mrs. Lee’s class to read. They are fun to interact with (I’m sure they can be pistols as well), and certainly fun to read to. It makes my heart feel good to walk into class and hear, “Hi Mr. Bill!”

How much do you add to someone’s bucket?

RoadID

Monday, October 1st, 2018

I have been using RoadID for a lot of years…so many I can’t even remember. I hoped it would never be needed. I never worried dreamed I would someday be hit by a car.  Seriously, I never worried about it. I can’t even say I thought about it that much. To think about it would be paralyzing. I don’t ever want to be a slave to fear so I just would not allow myself to think about it.

I do now. Well, I think about it; say a prayer; then head out for a ride. How was I supposed to know a hit-n-run driver wanted to play bumper cars with me? Only it was his passenger-side rear view mirror and I was his bumper. More accurately, my left cheek was his bumper.

That happened back in November of 2016. Lots has happened since then.

In this post I talked about meeting a camera crew from RoadID.  That meeting happened and after two fun hours it was done. The finished product is now on YouTube and you can link from it here.  I’d like to ask you to listen and comment if you care to.

Tips#2

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

As promised (I know you were waiting with baited breath), I want to continue my posts on basically what to say and what not to say to a person who is hurting or grieving. These are adapted from the book by Dave Furman called Being There. The first three were in this post and while I’m going to list them here, you can check out a further explanation by checking out the post.

#1. Don’t Be the Fix-It Person.

#2. Don’t Play the Comparison Game.

#3. Don’t Make it Their Identity.

#4. Don’t Promise Deliverance Now. This is really huge right now in the religious world. False teachers/cult leaders/prosperity teachers and other heretical personalities are promising deliverance. You know how it works. They come to you saying, “I just know you are going to be healed. God has told me He will do that.” They might even tell you to think positive. Think good thoughts, happy thoughts. Get rid of all negativity. Kum-ba-yah and all that other rot.  IMHO you are not there to be their personal faith guru or their guarantor of God’s healing power. I get so sick of heretics making false claims of healing, getting peoples’ hopes up only to watch them and their faith come crashing down because “God didn’t come through.” I do like what the author says is key to this thought: “Instead of promising deliverance in this life, point them to God’s presence and a future hope that will never let them down.” (p.119)

#5. Don’t Encourage Them to Just “Move On.” You find this in the more “I’m going to take you to the good side by constantly telling you to leave all your troubles behind” kind of person.  That approach seems so calloused if you ask me.  This person is literally telling the hurting person his/her life has been on hold for way too long and it is time get over it.  Now…granted there is a fine line between wallowing in your pity and grieving appropriately. Grieving is so essential, but so is adequate grieving. When we, by our words or actions, tell people it is high time they got over their grieving, we are essentially saying, “I’m tired of dealing with this issue with you.”  One of the things I keep telling myself is people grieve differently and at different speeds. Do I think some people “milk” it? Sure. But, at the same time, who am I to think someone “ought to be over it by now”?

Well, I’m sorry this has gotten so long. I didn’t think I had this much in me. 🙂 Anyway, I’ll post some more tips in another day or two. I invite you back for another visit. And feel free to share this if you think it will help someone.

 

Nostalgia#3

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

When I was first introduced to Christian music it was in high school but it was “old” stuff. When I went to college I was introduced to Gospel Quartet music and since that was all I knew (other than my “secular” bands) that was what I listened to. I graduated from college in 1974 and for a few years listened to more “oldies” rock and roll. But in the later half of the 70s I heard of bands like Resurrection Band (Rez Band), Darrel Mansfield, Sweet Comfort Band, and others.  But there was one band which struck my fancy. The first time I heard them I was hooked.

Their album Straight On was played over and over (by LP and cassette). Remember those?  🙂 The ensuing years brought Stella This Ain’t Hollywood; a Double Live album and multiple others. The two founders were friends since 1st grade. They grew up in Memphis and loved rock ‘n roll music. Their conversions to Christ gave them the motivation to make “another kind of music.” Music with meaning.

Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key were the brain-masters of DeGarmo and Key, one of the pioneers of Christian rock. After a run of over 20+ years of making music together, they chose to make solo projects. One of Dana’s most heart wrenching songs was his song to Eric Clapton following Mr. Clapton’s song, Tears in Heaven. Dana’s song was simply titled Dear Mr. Clapton.  On June 6, 2010 Dana died of a ruptured blood clot at the age of 56.  Tragically his wife died a couple years later at the age of 52.

My song of nostalgia is one DeGarmo and Key’s early songs. But it stands as #3 on my hit list. I never tire of hearing it. I love the lesson it teaches. I love the imagery it presents of the Christian race being a long distance run. I know many of you don’t/won’t like this song, maybe because “I don’t like rock music.”  But all I ask is that you give it a listen. You will be surprised at the lyrics and that it is easy to listen to.

Here is Long Distance Runner by DeGarmo & Key. Sorry I couldn’t find it the lyrics but I think they are pretty clear.