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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?

Reason

Monday, December 10th, 2018

It is not uncommon this time of the year to hear or see or be given some type of reminder:

JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

To be honest? I’ve had trouble with that phrase for quite a long time. Yes, I know what the slogan is supposed to be saying. And yes, I know people are well-intentioned (at least most of them) when they say it or display it. But that still doesn’t stop me from having trouble with it. Why?

Simple. Jesus is not the reason for the season. Now…before you brand me as a heretic or a scrooge of some sort, please hear me out.

Jesus is not the reason for the season…we are. That’s right. You cannot read the Scripture without seeing that it wasn’t Jesus who needed Christmas. We did. Bear with me here please. Don’t shoot me because I said Jesus didn’t need Christmas. I’m not talking about the trappings of the season. It would be sort of like I said, “Jesus is behind Easter.” I obviously don’t mean Jesus is responsible for eggs, rabbits, etc.

So, I’m not saying Jesus is behind the trees, lights, decorations, or even gifts. We are told: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus came as God in the flesh because we needed it to happen. The ultimate act of love of dying on the cross was why Jesus came. He came for us. We were the reason.

So my thinking is this: I am the reason; He is the meaning.  Any thoughts?

Christmas’18#2

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

In keeping with my stated intention in my last post, I’d like to pass along several thoughts/quotes I found in my reading.  I  hope these will give you some “thought” about this Christmas season.

Christmas is not simply about a birth but about a coming.  Tim Keller in Hidden Christmas

God had planned for the arrival of His Son. Like any good writer, he prepared His people with a great back story. We now call that back story the Old Testament. As you read the OT you can’t help but see how God was preparing the people of Israel for the coming Messiah.

Here is a good one for you that really hits on the lack of Biblical truth in the church and also hits at the seemingly endless “psychological/mind/feel good” so-called preachers in today’s culture.

THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS, NOT GOOD ADVICE.

The story of Jesus, the Gospel story, does not begin with “Once upon a time in a far away place…” Fairy tales begin that way. Star Wars begins that way (so I’ve been told). But not the Gospel message. Matthew 1 contains the genealogy of Jesus. It starts out by saying, “This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Not “Once upon a time in a very far away town called Bethlehem…”

People don’t need good advice. Good advice will not lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. People need Jesus and the salvation He offers.

There you have it. A couple thoughts for your Christmas thoughts. What do you think?

Satisfaction

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

There are a lot of things which bring us satisfaction. Some are not worth it; some are. Some are temporary; some are eternal. Some eat us alive; some give us life. As I see it, satisfaction can largely depend on your motives and expected results.

This past Thursday I was satisfied. In case you were born under a rock, Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. You know…eat till you drop. Eat till your buttons pop. Eat till you vow you will not eat again all day. Okay, at least until your next meal at another relative’s house or during the game (if you watch them).

Thursday for us was an absolutely beautiful day. The past few years it has been so frigid we had popsicles come inside after standing outside with a sign announcing our Thanksgiving Lunch for the community. But not this year! It turned out to be in the 50s and sunny.  It was a great day for a bike ride…I mean…a Thanksgiving lunch.  My day started early with my Quiet Time of Thanksgiving to the God who blesses me more than I deserve. Jo & I made our way to the local Lion’s Club where we hold the lunch. We started there when we didn’t have a building of our own and now that our building is sort of outside of town, we still use the LC for accessibility. We had a local lady who wanted to make pies for us so we arrived early to meet her. Sarah made 5 pies and some sugar cookies. Good thing I’m not a pumpkin, apple cinnamon, or pecan pie eater!  🙂  Eventually, others started arriving and preparations were underway.

I’m in charge of deliveries. I don’ t make them. I have men and women who do. So once people start coming I start humming. We have it down to a system now which works pretty well. And I had plenty of people who were more than eager to help in delivering the meals to whatever address I gave them, even some which were a 20-25 minute drive.

I know you don’t particularly want to hear those kinds of things. If you are like me you are saying, “Get with the program Bill! How many meals did you deliver? How many people did you serve in house?” I’m glad you and I think alike. Last year we delivered about 50 meals and served 15-20 in house. This year we blew the doors off both those numbers.

We delivered over 70 meals (not counting all the leftovers we took to the EMT’s).

We served over 30 meals to people who just wanted to come in and sit down to a Thanksgiving meal.

Now you can see why I am satisfied. Contented. Fulfilled. We helped a lot of people that day. We expect nothing back from them. But we are the ones who benefit by giving. I think Jesus was onto something when He said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  🙂  I know, in spite of how tired I was after all the lifting and carting before and after, there was a sense of A-a-a-a-a-a-h inside.

Two things hit me:

  1. We are going to turn right around and do a Christmas breakfast from 7-9:00 on Christmas morning.
  2. Neither Jo nor I brought any turkey or dressing or anything home.  I didn’t need the turkey to induce a nap. It just happened.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day. I sure did.

Cisterns

Monday, November 19th, 2018

One of the most convicting passages of Scripture is the one found in Jeremiah 2, especially verse 13: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

In all honesty, I know Jeremiah could have written that about me in 2018.

To read more of this devotion please check out my other site, Be Transformed.

With Thanksgiving on the very close horizon, I am going to be taking a break for the rest of the week on posting a blog. The short week plus trying to cram multiple things into 3 days means a very wise use of my time. I will be back on Friday for my weekend post on my upcoming sermon series, Shedding Light on Christmas.

Thanks for being a reader of my ramblings. I appreciate each one of you. Take time this week to do what the old song tells us to do: “Count your many blessings name them one by one.” May the whole idea of gratitude fill your heart this week and always.

HYMNS

Friday, November 16th, 2018

I am not preaching this weekend. My brother, Rob, will be here to sing and preach. So, I decided I would do something that I hope will set your heart right.

Worship is often confined to what happens on Sunday morning at “church.” I’m a firm believer though that worship is 24/7. However, focusing on the time we gather together on Sunday morning is what I’d like to do in this post. We gather. We sing. We partake of the Lord’s Supper. We give our tithes and offerings. We preach. (Okay…I preach). 🙂  But chances are when we talk about worship to the everyday attender most will point to the singing.

Sunday morning singing has gone through several time warps. It used to be it was all hymns. (I still love Great is Thy Faithfulness and Holy, Holy, Holy and some others like them). Then a few spiritual songs were added (think I’ll Fly Away or When We All Get to Heaven). The Jesus Movement brought in a whole new type of song, both worship songs but also “feel good about me” songs. The evolution of those types of songs has been slow but eventually we morphed into a band, a group of singers, guitarists, drummers, and (choke choke) light shows, smoke machines, and theatrics. Some have even introduced “secular” songs into a worship set (Like the church that played Highway to Hell to introduce their Easter service one time).  We now have songs that last 5-7 minutes due to repetition of verses and choruses. And, of course, there is the resident “jump around and act crazy” songs mistakenly substituted for and called worship. Now…please understand I love some of the music played. I like a beat, even a rockier kind. But there is a point of saturation.

Enter a new breed and new wave of hymns. Yep, that’s right hymns. I never thought I’d be saying it but I welcome it. Not going back to singing the old ones that drone on, but new ones which highlight God the Father and Jesus the Son in meaningful, heart-touching words and music. I’ve come across some of the “new” hymns lately by a church out of Australia (no not Hillsong). The group is called CityAlight. I have been touched by their music and lyrics. You know I have been if I tell you I have been to the Y the past two days and have had them in my ears. I’d encourage you to listen to them on your own but I would like to highlight a few songs that have touched me deeply.  No comment will be made by me. I’d like you to listen and then let me know what you think. I’m encouraging our Worship Team to pursue learning some of this music.

First, this was the first one I ever heard by them.

Second, this one is a cry of my heart.

Third, I heard this one today and it jolted me.

Fourth, this one is for good measure.  🙂

I hope you will check out more of their music. I believe you will be blessed beyond measure.  Have a great weekend of worship! Enjoy being in the Father’s presence.

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.

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?

Accident?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Okay so I didn’t quite tell the truth. I said in this post that I would post once more this week. But I wasn’t counting on reading something that “rang a bell” in my head. I wanted to blog about it before it left my thoughts (which happens a lot when you get older! 🙂 ).

I’m reading Therefore I Have Hope by Cameron Cole. His 3 year old son died unexpectedly one evening while sleeping. He is writing about his journey and what he has learned. One of the things people and pastors say is “God had nothing to do with your son/daughter/mother/father’s death.”  One woman was told that and said to the chaplain: “Don’t tell me that! You take away my only hope.”

Mr. Cole is of the opinion that, even though it is hard to see, God was involved in his son’s death. Why? God is sovereign and all-knowing. To say He wasn’t is to deny those two Biblical truths. He finished his chapter on Providence with these words:

My trial is not a random accident. Nothing comes into my life but through God’s perfect discretion. God remains in control of all circumstances. He has a hand in my painful circumstances, which means that his hand can extend to redeem my life. God is good. The evil in this world and the suffering in my circumstances do not represent his character. The perfectly kind and loving person, Jesus Christ, is the very image of the character of God. The cross reassures me of his love and sovereignty. I can trust him, knowing that he is fully good and fully in control.  (p.100)

As hard as it is to accept the truth that God is involved, it is hard to argue with what Mr. Cole has written. I can’t. I have decided I will never again say God is not aware or involved in what has happened. He does not cause evil  (James 1:13) but He is there. What are your thoughts?