Opinion

...now browsing by category

 

#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. 🙂

#/DreamBig#GoodRead

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Every once in awhile (not very often) I will look in the mirror or say to myself, “I wish I was younger.”  After 22 miles on a hot, humid and hilly day in the saddle this past Saturday, I got off my bike completely spent and found myself saying, “I wish I was younger.” (Yeah, I didn’t get any sympathy from my wife either).  When I cut my grass (I walk it) and my back, legs and knees are sore when I’m done, I wish I was younger.  When I look at what used to be Mr. America type muscles (cough! cough! That’s a joke son. I say. I say. That’s a joke) and see that I can no longer get the size I used to (especially since I don’t use steroids), I will say, “I wish I was younger.” When I make my way to bed between 9-9:30 so I can get up at 3:30 and it is still light out, Jo and I will sometimes say, “We’re pathetic.” (Translate: we didn’t do this when we were younger).  When I used to memorize a good part, if not all, of my sermon and now have trouble with the title, I will say, “I remember when I was younger.” 🙂

Just recently I finished a book only I didn’t wait until I was finished to say, “I wish I was younger.” I was saying it all along.  I have loved reading Bob Goff’s books- Love Does and Everyone Always. They were gems to read.  Going on that I picked up his newest book, Dream Big. He didn’t disappoint. His engaging and out-of-the-corner-of-his-mouth way of speaking and writing make me chuckle. It also had me underlining. I took notes. Each chapter began with a short pithy statement that alone was worth the price of the book. It read quickly. It is not filled with deep theological truth that makes you stop and chew on it for days.  That is not his style. But you cannot go away from any one chapter not thinking. His stories capture you. His honesty and transparency are refreshing.  Bob has the ability to laugh at himself and also to be serious about the passions which drive him.

But I wish I was younger.  If I was in my 20s or 30s or even 40s this would be a book I would read over and over, probably once a year. But at age 67 I’m near the end of my dreaming big stage. Not that I’m done dreaming or hoping or wanting to serve, but I WISH I WAS YOUNGER! I’m giving this book to my daughter, Tami, to read. She’s only 45 and has dreams. I want her to pursue them, especially since teaching kindergarten kids in school is no longer what it once was. Masks on kids? Seriously? Social distancing kindergarten kids? Seriously? “Pursue your dreams Tami.” And you who might be reading this: pursue your dreams. Especially if you are young and still have time to dream big.

Yeah…if I was only younger. My suggestion: go out and buy this for someone you love and care about. Read it with them and challenge them. Mentor them to pursue their God-given passions.  Let me leave you with just three quick quotes from his book:

Live on the edge of yikes. (p.155)

I love that!! Here is another:

Be where your feet are. (p.127)

That is an old South saying. And one more:

Don’t act like you got it all figured out. Nobody wants to give that person extra time.  Instead, be humble, self-aware, and punishingly truthful. (p.15)

There are more…way more. Enough to fill two journal pages.  Get the book for yourself and read it.

Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It

#WithinUs#How’sthatWorking?#RealPeace

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Ever since sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, man has tried to do things on his own. Cain thought he could change things by killing his brother Abel.  Nope. The downhill slope we started on when our parents sinned just amped up even more. Over the course of 6000 years or so (give or take a few), we have continued trying to do things our way. Frankly, the “trying it our way” schtick hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, recent events show it has gone from bad to worse. 

Enter Chris Cuomo, the CNN host of Cuomo Prime Time. This past week he said something so asinine that I can hardly believe he said it…but then again I shouldn’t be surprised.  He said instead of trusting God to get us through uncertain times,  we should “look within us” for the answers. He went on to say:

If you believe in one another and if you do the right thing for yourself and your community, things will get better in this country.  And then he added this: {You don’t need help from above, it’s within us}. Emphasis mine.

I can be really snarky but perhaps this question will do the trick:  ‘Hey Chris! How’s that working out for you?”  One commentator said, “Yep. That tactic is working SUPER well right now.” Another said, “How do we know what the right thing is Chris?”  

You see, that latter question is very telling.  How do we know? When he was being interviewed for a documentary for ESPN 30 to 30, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong was asked if he was going to tell the truth during this interview. His response is typical of many: ‘Yeah, I’ll tell the truth. MY TRUTH.” Say what? Since when is my truth different from THE truth?  The last I read my truth is to conform to HIS truth. Anything less is falsehood. With Lance we were going to get his version of the truth. Typical of our world and now you know why that last comment was so probing.

Folks, things are not going to get better by our own efforts. Try as we may. Protest all you want (as if those have been peaceful). Woodstock was seen as a harbinger of the “summer of love.” Less than 4 months later two festivals- Altamont and Isle of Wright- were unmitigated disasters. Sort of like Seattle. Sort of like any other man-made effort for peace.

Mark it down: PEACE WILL NEVER COME TO THIS WORLD UNTIL JESUS RETURNS.  No matter what Chris Cuomo or any of his ilk say. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

 

#Worry#Peace

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Its funny (not ha-ha funny) how things come together and you are not even aware of it at the beginning.  When I started mapping out this series called Promises, Promises I was oblivious to the dates. I just started brainstorming titles, found the Scriptures, and then started putting them into the order I wanted to preach them. Little did I know that this week’s sermon would fall on the July 4th weekend and be so applicable that it blows me away. It wasn’t until I had started working on the outline and objective statement (what I want to accomplish) that I realized it was the weekend we celebrate our Independence as a nation.

I could not have planned it any better than if I had pulled out the calendar and said, “This week is this sermon.”  FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”  MLK, Jr stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I have a dream” speech. His dream of racial harmony has not been fully realized (as we know), but progress has been made and we can pray it will continue.

But if there is one thing our world has plenty of is worry. One thing our world is missing in spades is peace.  I like what Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch Holocaust survivor) said:

Worry is an old man with bended head, carrying a load of feathers which he thinks are lead.

The enemy of peace is not war. It is worry. And that has a by-product: fear.  Peace is something Jesus has promised His followers: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:7) There is no question that peace is what we all would like to see. Truthfully, that will never happen (not until Jesus returns). But the Christ-follower has the promise of peace…the kind the world will never know or experience. I want to give those who listen or watch some of that reassurance we find in God’s Word.

I think it is a critical subject. I’d appreciate your prayers please.

#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?

#Strength#WearyDays#BiggerGod

Friday, June 19th, 2020

I’m sure you have heard the American prayer. In fact, I suspect you have probably prayed it as have I. That prayer is simple:

Lord, give me patience…and give it to me now!

As I write this post, and as I prepare to preach on Sunday morning, I am a poster child for this prayer. It is far more common than I (and possibly you) would be willing to admit. Patience is not a virtue of many most Americans. We want it and we want it now. Case in point: the recent COVID shutdown. The first week or so we were patient and sort of reveled in the change. But as it went on longer we saw signs of impatience creep into our lives. Many who said, “No way will I go out” began to stretch the boundaries. 

We see this “I want it now” mentality in newlyweds.  They don’t want to wait to get things they grew up with. Without even realizing it they want what their parents had and spent years planning and saving for. We end up in debt up to our eyeballs because of our impatience.

Following God is no different. We want answers…NOW. We want God’s direction…NOW. When truthfully, waiting is the last thing we want to do. But oftentimes we are called on to wait. Sunday’s Scripture is most definitely one of the key passages about that: “Those who wait on the Lord…”

Sunday’s sermon is the second part of Isaiah 40 that began last week. This week is from Isaiah 40: 28-31: “Strength for Weary Days.” Thanks for your prayers for me and the church as we meet.

 

#47

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

I was in the flower shop yesterday (that is a surprise all its own) when someone asked me how many years of marriage we are celebrating. I said, “47.” She said “Wow! Good for you! We are celebrating 33. We started late.”  People have a hard time believing we are celebrating 47 years because I look no older than 50.  I can see the wheels in their head turning ’round and ’round as they try to do the math. 🙂  So I save them the brain drain and tell them I am really 67, my bride is 69 and we were married while in college.

I met Jo when we were Freshmen in college. She had stayed out a year to work and not study. She had her roommates who became friends; I had complex mates who became friends. Lo, and behold, my friends hung with hers and we became friends.  We did really stupid stuff back then (like crawling through bat guano when we were crawling through caves) but we were young and adventurous.  She really didn’t like me when we first met. Said I was arrogant. Who me? Just because I was a starting Freshman on the basketball team? I didn’t think I was then…but I guess I was. Eventually, my charm won her over and we went out on a date. We went to another town to see the movie Love Story and man was it quiet in the car. She didn’t talk much. I thought she didn’t want to be with me and actually wished she was out with another guy. Come to find out she was sort of shy and didn’t really talk all that much. Oh…how times have changed! But I digress.

Eventually our sophomore year we started dating and except for a break-up by her (twice)  we have been together since.  Our original date to get married was August 18 but the school (where I was working for the summer) threw us a curve ball so we had to move the date to June 16th against the wishes of both our parents. It was either that or be unemployed two weeks from the end of school. We had all our invitations printed when the school told me I didn’t have a job since I would be single and they weren’t hiring single people that summer. So we scrambled to put together a wedding in less than 2 months. She said we could put a notice in the invitations that said “due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to move the date of the wedding.” I said, “I don’t think that would be the best thing to say.” 🙂 She agreed. Anyway, we got married. I had to have my parent’s permission since Ohio required the parties be 21. My father-in-law never let me live that one down.

Wives of ministerial students were tuition-free so that was one reason we didn’t wait until after graduation.  We lived in a too small trailer (I broke every light fixture as I walked through it)  that was moved and the add-on was not even connected to the trailer. We could see ground in the Spring, Summer and Fall and snow in the winter! And that add-on was our bedroom! We were poor college students but that trailer was our home. We loved each other deeply and still do to this day. We have had our tough times like all marriages do. I was way too married to my job. Tragically, I found a lot of my identity there.  On June 3,1975 Tami came along and at one time wondered why she was not in our wedding pictures. 🙂 On August 23, 1979 Janna was born. They were to the two best events that ever happened to me (other than Jo).  Janna gave us Braden on October 17, 2006. That was the next best thing, although I didn’t have anything to do with that!

My life has been full. It has been an adventure (My personal motto is “Live the Adventure”) and I have God to thank for that. He has been involved in my life since I was a child; personally when I came to know Him at the ripe old age of 8; and He has led me through the highs and lows. Jo has been one of the highs and I am forever grateful God brought us together. Life is much different these days. She is retired and prefers to spend her days either at home watching TV or relaxing, or driving all over creation.  If she had her druthers we would live a whole lot closer to Janna and Braden, but she never balked at where we lived and loves the people here in Spencer. Tami lives here in Spencer and teaches in Bloomington. We have found our most satisfying ministry here, and she has been allowed to be herself. I still work full-time as the pastor of people I deeply love.

We found out in the middle of last week that Braden plays his first baseball game tonight (Tuesday) so since I was already planning on taking the day off I surprised her by suggesting we go and watch him play ball, spend the night in Ohio, take him to breakfast (IHOP) and then head home. Yeah, I had to twist her arm for that one. So we head off shortly for what we hope will be a delightful drive and time with Janna and Braden. He is the light of both our lives and keeps us laughing. We want to take advantage of that before he sees his grandparents as too old to be bothered with or acknowledged.

So…thank you love (I call her Honey) for 47 years. My prayer is that we will be see that magical number of 50 together. Sorry this is so long, but I was writing about someone I love. Oh…I could have gone on for much longer.  But I’ll spare you for now. 🙂

#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.