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Belonging

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Everyone wants to belong to something. To be included. No one wants to be an outcast. Loner. Bullied. Called “different.”

This past weekend Jo attended a Ladies Retreat at the church camp we send our kids. She was telling me about hearing a fantastic workshop speaker.  This woman has had CP all her life and has struggled with fitting in. Bullied for her “difference.” But someone loved her and accepted her and showed her Jesus. During her workshop she asked the ladies to listen to a song. Jo played it for me last night. I like what it says so I am including it here for you to listen to.  It is a new song and a new group to me, but the words spoke volumes. I’ve included two versions here for you:

One of just the video.

One with the lyrics in case you have difficulty understanding the words.

It is important to remember that everyone matters to God.  Keep that in mind as you make your way through the week. Keep an eye out for the wounded one. The one no one wants to be around. The one who people look away from. I know I’m praying I do a better job of that myself.

 

Pardon?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

My grandfather used to say, when someone would say something to him that he did not hear (he worked in a steel mill as a welder all his life), “Pardon?” I was taught to say, “Excuse me?” or “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.” That’s a whole lot different than the “Huh?’ or “Wha-a-a-t?” we often hear today. Okay, off rabbit trail and back to original thought. Pardon. We hear about pardons being granted to criminals, or even every day “Joe’s” by people. It’s not always easy to offer that.

In this post I mentioned reading a book called Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. What an excellent book!  He tells the story of a man named George Wilson who pled guilty to several counts of robbery and “endangering the life of a mail driver” and apparently it was serious enough to merit the death penalty. Wilson was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson chose to issue Wilson a full pardon, but Wilson, for reasons we will probably never know, refused to accept it. In United States v. Wilson, 1833, the Supreme Court issued its verdict saying (in essence), “If the pardon is rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.”

Seems strange to me that a man would reject a pardon which exonerated him, but also set him free. Seems strange to me why people would reject the pardon offered by God which would exonerate a person of their sin, and at the same time set them free. In my mind, the choice is a no-brainer.

Strange indeed.

Relief

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Welcome to my Sunday meanderings.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes things just seem to pile up?  We have those seasons when stuff happens, in spades. Not every once in awhile but what seems like an onslaught. As many of you have experienced, it isn’t just one thing; it is a myriad of things.

Cancer diagnosis in friends. (A complication in one came in while I was showering this morning).

Marriages falling apart.

Deaths of friends and the funerals which follow (3 in the last month).

A three-week old baby requiring open heart surgery.

A host of other “beat downs.”

Plus one very tired pastor who needs a break (which is coming).

I’m preaching about HOPE this morning. Hope in a forever home. Good thing I believe in that. If my hope is not connected to forever, my hope will somehow die.  For hope to be hope it must carry with it the promise that all which is broken will be repaired, and that it will remain repaired forever.

I’m glad I have Someone to lean on. If I didn’t I don’t know how I would handle this onslaught right now.  Maybe that is why I have chosen two songs for this week. They are throwbacks. The singer is Mark Farner, former lead singer for Grand Funk. His conversion is a great story but his music is timeless. His lyrics are clear so you shouldn’t have any trouble listening and understanding. So check out this song then go to this one.

Have a great week bolstered (as I am and will be) by the truth I serve an amazing God who understands.

Understand?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

I’ve said here before in my blog that I lack some things. One of those is “super intelligence.” I am not a deep-thinker by nature and often get bored when the subject goes deeper than a) I want to go and b) I am able to understand. People will ask me questions which “go beyond my pay grade” i.e. beyond my ability to understand and explain. There are certain mysteries I accept without feeling like I have to have a PhD to “sign off” on.

One of those is God. I am often asked hard questions, at least hard ones for me. I can’t say I have ever had one of those “dark nights of the soul” where I questioned everything I have ever been taught and came out on the other side more convinced than ever of what I believe. My “dark night” (no not Batman) is more related to having questions about suffering, and why things happen that I don’t have an answer to or see no sense in.

I’m currently reading a book by J.D.Greear called Not God Enough. While it is different from my normal fare, it has been a great book. An understandable book (for me). I’m almost 100 pages into this 200+ page book and I’m finding some good, thought-provoking stuff. Perhaps the best way to describe its approach is to use his opening statement of Chapter 1:

A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped. Evelyn Underhill

There is no way “under God’s green earth” that I can or will ever understand God, what makes Him tick (except His love for me), or how He operates.  But the good thing is I don’t have to!! I often tell people it is okay to have doubts. True, doubt can drive you backward into disbelief, but it can also drive you forward into real faith. 

I will never understand all there is to know about God (nobody can). All I know is I believe He is who He said He is. He is the great I AM (as He told Moses). And for that, I make no apologies, nor do I need any letters after my name.

Image

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

There is no doubt we live in an image-conscious world. Fat-shaming. Body-shaming. All kinds of shaming going on. Cyber bullying has become a pastime for many. Plastic surgeons are in high demand to fix this, tuck this, remove this, do this, do that.

Whatever happened to Psalm 139: 13-16 and the reality it teaches? Before you jump all over me, I agree we ought to take care of ourselves. I don’t cycle and lift weights for nothing. But to body-shame someone because they don’t meet “our standard” of loveliness is just downright wrong. Sinful even. And to feel less than beautiful because of someone else’s standards is not right either.  Because of back surgery I am limited in what I can do for my core muscles. I was not allowed to do anything for almost 3 months. My stomach is not as flat, toned and defined as it once was. But that hasn’t stopped someone from commenting about it. I laugh it off but what would that do to someone who was less confident or didn’t know the uphill battle I face trying to find ways to exercise?

That is why this song was so insightful to me this past week.  If you have trouble with the lyrics I have included the lyric video of the song here.  I hope this helps set your week on a good path.

Suicide

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Warning. Spoiler Alert. This is not going to be a fun post to read. Or write for that matter.  This is not a fun subject, a joking matter, or something to be taken lightly. Everyone of us has probably, in some way, been touched by suicide. Either we are survivors of it (those left behind) or we know someone who has threatened suicide or someone who died of suicide.  As a pastor I would love to say it has never touched a church I have pastored or affected someone in the church. I could give you statistics but that would belabor it.  Because I am a pastor, and because I want to reach out to the survivors, I felt a definite need to “read up” on it. I feel God definitely led me to a book called Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu. A few months after his wedding, Dr. Hsu’s father took his life. No doubt depression played a major part in his father’s actions after a major stroke three months earlier.

What makes this book so helpful is his personal involvement in it. It is not a clinical “this-is-what-is-wrong-with-people” approach. Nor is it a book which condemns people to hell who take their life (I won’t do that either). What I especially liked about the book is it can be read and understood by the common person. Like me. I have no visions of grandeur about my intelligence. I like things simple. Dr. Hsu does that. He doesn’t back down from the hard questions but neither does he get heavy-handed. The ones who won’t like this book are those looking for proof of condemnation. If you are one of those, go looking at the comics. I prefer not to cross swords or paths with you.

Here is one example of down-to-earth teaching: there is some discussion about the use of terms-committed suicide vs  completed suicide. I have always use the former but there is someone in the church who uses the latter. His thoughts? Survivor’s react against the former saying it sounds criminal. I’ll grant that now. The latter, he says, “sounds like a laudatory accomplishment…It comes across as somewhat clinical and cold.” (p.169)  His suggestion? “My dad died from suicide” or “my dad took his own life.”  He also recoils against describing suicide as “successful.” (p.170).

I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It is also interspersed with excellent and informative items like “Warning Signs of Suicide”; “Facts About Suicide”; and others. It is helpful if you are a survivor and are looking for help, and it is helpful if you want to help someone. Check out the right sidebar of my blog for more information on the book.

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope

Saying

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

As I wrote in my journal about  yesterday’s New Morning Mercies and posted on my other blog, I took a look back at my journal from last year on March 17. Evidently I had been reading and studying about Bill Johnson back then. As I write this now, it suddenly hit me why I was studying him, Bethel Readding and what is called the New Apostolic Reformation.  (See yesterday’s post here for more information on that).  We were losing someone to that method of thinking. Someone(s) I love had become enamored by the teaching of Bethel and were in the process of leaving. In fact, it was real close to this time last year they left to pursue other avenues.

I found the following quote during my study and I had copied, printed, and paper-clipped it in my journal:

A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.

The source? Charles Spurgeon. The year? I couldn’t find it but he lived from 1834-1892.

Quite prophetic don’t you think? And challenging. And convicting.

Your thoughts?

Deception

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

D.L.Moody once said, “No one should every preach about hell without tears in his eyes.” And so I write this post with tears in my eyes. I confess: I am angry. I’m angry at the blatant disregard for God’s Word. I’m angry at the “free translation” taken for the purpose of bilking millions out of seeing and hearing the truth of God’s Word. All for money, prestige, fame, and a following. Please let me explain. And again…I write this with tears in my eyes. AND IT IS MY OPINION and not to be taken as coming from OVCF.

Several weeks ago I could be found reading a book called Defining Deception by Costi Hinn (Benny’s nephew) and Anthony G. Wood. Actually, reading this book is a furthering of my study on what is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  The NAR is neither new, apostolic or reformed.  Plain and simple it is heresy.  The main proponent of this heresy today is Bill Johnson and Bethel Redding and Jesus Culture.  There are others, of course. Deception always has more than one, but he is the one who is the “figurehead” of the movement. It started again (it has been going on for quite some time in various forms) with C. Peter Wagner who taught that he was an apostle and there were others as well…Johnson being one of them. Todd White,  Heidi Baker, Kris Vallotton, Danny Silk, and others are also part of it. The NAR also hangs its hat with the likes of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, and other Prosperity Doctrine & Health/Wealth false teachers.  Heretical teaching like denying the deity of Jesus Christ; ungodly practices like “grave sucking;” tarot card (called Destiny cards) readings; “guaranteed” healing in the Atonement (using Isaiah 53:5); setting up men today as “Apostles;” women as prophetesses; and other false ideas has me a tad bit upset. My first blog was 2/20/08 and in all the years since can probably count on one hand hitting on someone else or naming names.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post called “Lies.” Since then I have finished Defining Deception and highly encourage you to read it. Here’s the deal: you can have one of three responses to reading it:

  1. You can get as mad as “all get out” and never come back to my blog.  i hope that will not be the case. I’ll miss you, but I simply cannot apologize for my stand.
  2. You can purchase the book and read it for yourself (which I hope you will do) and come to your own decision.
  3. You will agree and cement your stand for the truth of God’s Word in an age of cults and wild “God-works-this-way-today” accusations.

Costi and Anthony have done a great service to us by writing this book. Costi, especially, has taken “heat” from his family for his truthfulness. BTW: they finish the book with 5 excellent appendices.

 

Astounded

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

I have moments where I am totally astounded by God. They may come in different ways.

Hearing a song.

Participating in worship.

Listening to someone tell how God intervened in his/her life.

Watching a life being changed only by the grace of God.

Through the laughter and love of little Sophia (Jo & I are mamaw Jo and grandpa Bill) even though not related.

Through the love of a wife who continues to astound me with her grace toward me.

I could go on. But none astound me as much as God. Each day I awaken to new mercies. Each day I awaken to a new sunrise (eventually), new sights, new beginnings, new awareness, new direction, new hope. Again…I could go on.

But I am most astounded by the unconditional love and grace of a God who blesses me with more than I certainly deserve. In about an hour and a half we will enter into our corporate worship. I will sing praises. I will preach His Word. And I will anticipate being astounded by God. It is fitting that this song be the one I choose for this week. I hope it will speak to your heart and set your mind right for the week.  The words are easily understood but if you do have difficulty, they are included in the video description (hit SHOW MORE).

MAY GOD LEAVE YOU ASTOUNDED TODAY. MAY HE LEAVE YOU AMAZED THIS WEEK.

Fences

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

My apologies for not being here more often this week. Little did I know how “life was going to happen” and would change the color of my week. Nothing bad. I did drive 3 hours ( 1 1/2 each way) to attend the funeral of someone’s mother) but that was actually a refreshing time by myself. Jo had surgery last week so she was unable to make the trip with me. She gave me permission to turn my music up loud and listen away.  🙂 🙂 So I did! I even played air guitar and sang out loud!! Yeah…I was by myself and windows were up.

I wrote a devotion this morning about fences for my other blog Be Transformed. Writing in my journal every day while reading New Morning Mercies has been a phenomenal exercise in discipline for me.  I tend to be a pretty self-disciplined person but this has taken me to a new awareness of its importance. I read New Morning Mercies each day; journal; send it to my Band of Brothers; and then post it on Be Transformed.  Call this shameless promotion if you want to, but I’d like to invite you to read the post on Fences. I also invite your response.  You can purchase New Morning Mercies by going here.

Now…I’d like to invite you to join me at Be Transformed to read and comment (if you like).