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Wars

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Some wars are justified; some are not. (not a political statement so stay away from there). Church history gives us plenty of ammunition for proof. The Reformation is a perfect example of that.

Down through the years, music has been a battleground. I was hoping it was over but recently one of our college students came home and I asked him about the bruhaha about the music that he got involved in. Seems the college president made the comment that the only “real” Christian music was southern gospel and hymns and he challenged the students to give up their “devil” music (my summary not exact words).

UGH!

I like and respect Chuck Swindoll and read a great article by him last week on music. I’d like to share it with you in its entirety and hear your thoughts. It is entitled Sing New Songs…With Old Truths:

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

Because the theology of hymns is far too rich and beneficial to lose. The hymn writers were wordsmiths and musicians (seldom the same person) who wove theology and melody together into splendid compositions.

They gave us words for worship and marvelous music. One of the benefits of music—whatever style you choose—is that it helps cement truth in our brains stronger than memorizing words alone.

We remember words easier with a tune attached. Hymns bring to mind deep and practical truths, not only for times of worship but also for times of trial and distress.

I have always loved the old hymns, and I always will . . . because the truths they express are timeless.

However, let me quickly add that the canon isn’t closed on music for worship. In addition to hymns, each new generation will continue to compose fresh choruses of worship and new songs of praise . . . and that is as it should be—it’s biblical!

Fresh and Creative

Those churches who believe we should only have hymns have forgotten the words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, who wrote:

I will sing a new song to You, O God;
Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You. (Psalm 144:9, emphasis added)

The prophet Isaiah and the apostle John later used similar words (Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9). The worship of our Creator should stay fresh and creative.

There is everything right about singing new songs. But we must be certain that the songs we compose and sing express sound doctrine and not human-centered philosophy.

Simply claiming, “The Lord gave me this song,” doesn’t qualify it for public worship. Even Christians in the first century were urged to “test” the words they heard (1 John 4:1–6).

Furthermore, a good melody should never override our critical thinking. Lyrics take on significance only when they are filtered through the inerrant text of the Holy Scriptures.

The music can be new . . . but the truths the music proclaims must not be.

I second his thoughts. I love the new music. But I tire of the repetition which many of them have. I can think of a few right now which turn my stomach just thinking about them.

But I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

3Feetplease

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

ADVOCACY

I think deep in the heart of all of us is something we are passionate about. Sometimes that passion is self-driven, i.e. something sticks to us like glue and we become an advocate for it. Sometimes it is need-driven, i.e. I don’t like the sex trafficking issue so I become an advocate against it. Sometimes something happens to us that “drives” us to not being able to leave it alone.

Things like best friends being killed by distracted drivers. Things like being “buzzed” then given the finger when you motion with open arms. Things like being stalked by a big diesel pickup then being covered in black smoke as he “accelerates.”

Things like bike wrecks caused by a hit and run driver. I’m pretty sure most of you are aware the latter happened to me on November 7, 2016. So has being buzzed and covered in black smoke. It was the former, though, which has led me to a web site and to become an advocate. The site is 3feetplease.com. (It is being overhauled and the new look is to be ready by the end of the week).  Below are some of the items available. (There is also a T-shirt which I will have to include in another post).

I rode for years without ever having trouble with a car (except for nuisance from jerks)…until that November 7th date last year. A person’s perspective changes a lot when he is the victim. I plan to become an advocate for the 3 Feet Law in Indiana and with help from Bob Heaton and Rod Bray I hope it becomes a LAW in Indiana. Will it stop it? Probably not. But drivers need to know the law and that there are consequences to disobeying it.

Whichone?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

“Joy to the World the Lord is come…”

Christmas song or Easter song?

Written in 1719 by Isaac Watts, he never intended it to be sung as a Christmas song. But it has become one of the most well-loved Christmas songs we sing. But as we are often guilty of doing, we skip over some of the stanzas. If we don’t skip over them we skim them. Hence, we might miss the third stanza of this hymn:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as the curse is found.

The mission of Jesus was not to come as a baby. That “started” it. But the mission of Jesus was to wipe out the curse of sin, death, hell and the grave. He came to unleash His power and grace in an unprecedented act of love. He came to restore our relationship with the Father which sin had broken.

What a tremendous truth to ponder as we enter this time of the year. Or if I may borrow the words to a song which has nothing to do with this topic: “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Someday

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

I was sitting in my chiropractor’s office Friday and since I had forgotten to bring something to read (DUH!), I picked up a Men’s Health magazine. I ran across an article about a trainer named Bobby Maximus. (Sort of reminds me of Gladiator.  🙂 )  I give you that, not as a stamp of approval on Maximus, but as a “give credit where credit is due” thing. Anyway, they had some sayings which Maximus is fond of using.  Several of them struck a chord…one I’ve heard before: “Do what’s right, not what’s easy.”

But the one that stayed with me so much I wrote it down and use it now is this:

There are 7 days in a week. ‘Someday’ is not one of them.

It is easy getting into that mode-whether we talk about our physical condition; our exercise program; a relationship we want to cultivate; a goal we want to realize; and especially our relationship with God. I don’t really need to go into detail as to each of these modes, so to speak. We all know how it applies to our physical condition or an exercise program, etc.

I do find it somewhat disconcerting when I consider how I have used the “Someday excuse” when it comes to cultivating my relationship with God. “Someday I will have that Quiet Time.” “Someday I will pray.” “Someday I will learn that verse.” Someday. Someday. Someday. And Someday never gets anything accomplished.

I’ve written about my two bike wrecks. No need to go into them again. If you want to read about it go here. But those two wrecks have taught me some serious lessons…one of them is don’t use “Someday” as an excuse to get things done which need done. Don’t keep putting things off.  For example, Jo & I are in a much better place than we have been for years, largely because of this philosophy.  Talking more. Hugging and snuggling more. Kissing more. I’ll stop there. 🙂 🙂  (I know Tami…TMI)

Don’t keep saying “Someday.”

Fog

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

As in stupor. Lull. Clouded mind.

This morning (Tuesday) I was reading a devotion from New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I’m not saying this lightly: I am not sure there has ever been a devotion that hit me so hard and so “where I live” as this one. I’m going to give you snippets of it in this blog and then include it at as a whole at the end.

Human beings, who were created to live in awe of God, are in grave danger when familiarity causes them to be bored with God.

That was just the opening line! But he wasn’t done.

Familiarity is a beautiful thing…But the blessing of blessings is to be familiar with the ways, the character, the presence, and the promises of God…Yes, familiarity is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a very dangerous thing.

By this time he had my undivided attention. Something began to ring in my ears and in my heart. Something disturbing. Convicting. Unnerving. Truthful.  Then came this:

Every human being was designed by God to have his hopes, dreams, choices, words, actions, desires, and motivations shaped by a jaw-dropping, heart-controlling, life-shaping awe of God…Familiarity causes us to lose our awe of God. What once stunned us doesn’t anymore. {Note: you can read the rest on your own below}

Here is what I wrote in my journal:

“I wonder, as I think back, if this is some of what happened {Note: previous to my bike wreck in February}. Had I lost my awe of God? Had I taken Him for granted? That, (along with a couple other factors), could be the source of my stupor and lull of the desert from mid summer to my wreck in February. I may not know what caused the wreck, but as time goes by I seem to get a better handle on my (spiritual) struggle leading up to it. And that is good. 🙂 As I do, a little more of me wakes up. And that is very good.” 🙂  (In case you are new, if you read here you will find out what happened.  You can find out what I did my first Sunday back in the pulpit after the wreck here. And then read this post to find out a recap of what has been happening.

I know we each have our own journey we are traveling. This may have absolutely no relevance to yours. That’s okay. Then again…maybe it does. Below is the whole day’s devotion. I hope it is clear enough for you.

 

 

Restart

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

I wore this T-shirt today (Sunday). Someone from the church picked it up for me since they know I absolutely love this movie. (And yes, I wear T-shirts to preach in on Sunday morning. I serve a church where wearing a tie usually means a funeral or a wedding).

Unless I miss my guess most of us have had a time or two or three where we have wished we could turn back the clock or travel back in time for a “do over.” I’m reminded of a song Jo likes to listen-“Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe. Well, as we all know we can’t hop in our DeLorean and travel back in time and change the course of history…our history. Sadly, we can’t get a “do over.”

But, in reality, life isn’t about “do overs.” Life is about what is ahead. Jo and I have been talking a lot lately about forgetting the past and looking ahead. We can’t change it but we can make a difference in the days to come. Craig Groeschel, in his new book Divine Direction says:

It’s not too late to change the story that you’ll tell one day. You can start something new. No matter how desperate, uncertain, afraid, or stuck you may feel right now, your story isn’t over. Page 28

At the end of Back to the Future 3, Marty and Jennifer are talking to Doc who has come back to 1985 in a train. When Jennifer shows Doc the picture and says something about their future, Doc says, “Nobody’s future has been written yet. So make it a good one…both of you.” He is both right and wrong. Our future is known by God. He orders our steps according to Proverbs. But since none of us know our future, we need to make it the best one we can. And to quote Craig again:

There is no better time to start writing your future story than right now. Page 46

That’s pretty good and solid advice. Taking a DeLorean seems easier. Just change it before it happens. But that is not going to happen. So start today and make it a good one…following the Father’s plan and steps.

Messy

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Well…I did it again.

NO…I DIDN’T HAVE ANOTHER BICYCLE ACCIDENT!

Saturday night I told Jo not to be surprised if I scrapped the sermon for something else. I felt God nudging me about it while I was studying. In fact, I almost went back to the office Saturday evening. I didn’t. But Sunday morning, in spite of the Daylight Savings Time shift, I was up and in my office and cranked out a sermon to preach.

I called it Messy Grace. It was a follow up to last week’s sermon when I opened up about my wilderness journey. I needed to  bring some closure to that sermon and “felt led” to address the issue of messy grace.

Sometimes grace is messy. Sometimes grace is rubbing shoulders with people who are not like us. Jud Wilhite, a pastor in LasVegas and the author of Stripped tells the story of a lady who said she was leaving the church because she didn’t like the type of people who were showing up and “you never know what you might get from those type of people.” I suspect God was more grieved over her comment than “those type of people” attending church.

Grace was extended to me by my family this past week. The people of OVCF extended grace to me by their texts, emails, comments, and phone calls. I’d like to close with this picture of a wall hanging Jo and I bought shortly after Christmas. Little did I know how much it would be appropriate to us.

Interrupted

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

If you saw the last post, it was a description of Sunday’s sermon: Black/white.

Well…it was supposed to be. Until that Sunday morning when God interrupts the thought-process and says, “I want you to go in a different direction.”

So “Black Hats/White Hats” was held over until this coming Sunday. God had other ideas. I want you to know I’m not really into that. I prepare for a reason. I study for a reason. I practice on Sunday morning to an empty auditorium for a reason. I am a firm believer that if people come on Sunday morning to hear “me speak” (to hear a word from God as He has taught me), they need to hear something worth listening to. Half-baked, half-prepared sermons which use the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as an excuse for not studying and preparing tell the people they don’t matter and the pastor doesn’t care.  That’s not me. So when I no sooner begin my sermon and I sense the Holy Spirit prompting me to put it all aside and talk from the heart, I don’t jump up and down like Horshack on Kotter saying, “Ooh ooh ooh.”

That is what happened though this Sunday. I no sooner made two comments:

“Along with the fake there will always be a real.”

“Underneath it all we need to see that Looks can be deceiving.”

At that point I told the people to put their Bibles and notes away. I confessed to them that for the past 9 months or so I have been wearing a mask. I wore a mask so when they asked, “How you doing?” my stock answer was, “I’m fine.” Problem is Bill wasn’t fine. Bill was running on fumes.  He was empty.

It took two bicycle accidents to get my attention. The first didn’t work because it wasn’t my fault and I was able to move on too quickly from it. But this second one was a doozy. I’ve written about it here. I’m healing physically, but spiritually is taking longer. If you would like to listen to the podcast of Sunday’s talk, you can link here.

Your continued prayers are very much needed. Priorities need realigned. Relationships need mended and realigned as well. Thanks ahead of time.

TESTS

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I disliked taking tests. Maybe dislike is the wrong word. Maybe hated is a better one. 🙂 Actually, I didn’t mind the essay kind. I could “blow off” and hope I said enough to make my point. I didn’t mind multiple choice because somewhere along the line I might remember and get the right answer. I disliked strongly (how about that choice of words) the True/False kind.

One of the biggest struggles I run into among fellow Christ-followers is the assurance of salvation. Too many are always questioning “Am I saved?” “If I die today would I go to heaven?” “How can I know?” While I personally have questions about what is called Eternal Security, I don’t believe a follower of Christ ever has a reason to doubt their salvation. Based on what you ask? Well, Sunday I gave two tests to ask as you seek to figure out not only your own, but who might be preaching a strange gospel. Here are two from I John:

  • Belief in God and the certainty of sin. [1:5-6,8,10]  False teachers and doctrinal errors are spread when there is uncertainty about God and sin. John tells us “God is Light.” He also tells us “in Him is no darkness at all.” Ever since the Fall man has tried to excuse sin. We call it a “mistake” or a “failure” or a “disorder, illness, or addiction.” Call sin what it is…sin.
  • Belief in forgiveness of sin and confession. [1:7b,9] That verse 9 stands like a rock for me. We can deny it. We can argue. But we cannot erase that verse from the pages of Holy Writ. What is written is written. Way too many followers of Jesus live in the past and think they cannot be forgiven. The tense used for forgive is one which not only shows past forgiveness but specifically present forgiveness. And since my tomorrow is actually today, forgiveness is always there.

I’m sure you can think of more. But these are huge to the freedom of every follower of Jesus. What do they say to you?

Struck

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, it was Jo’s birthday. I survived the caning I received for telling her age, but other than that I have come out of it relatively unscathed.

We did go see Hidden Figures. What a moving picture! I was born in 1952 and even though I grew up during the age of segregation, I was basically naive. My mother was not a segregationist by any stretch so I was taught all people were worth something. I was never allowed to use the “n” word in her presence, nor was I allowed to make fun of any handicapped person. (Kids can be cruel you know?) I grew up living in the projects, low income housing units built for the steel workers in the 20s, I believe. Improvements had been made but I was still a son-of-the-projects.  I look back now and remember the separate housing units for the black people (that’s one of the names they were called. That and colored people). But I can also look back and realize some of my friends were black kids. I played sports with them. I went to school with them. I was affected by, but in the dark when the riots of ’69-70 hit home to my little town of West Mifflin, PA. I grew up in a high school that was about 1/3 black so I was not out of sorts like so many whites and blacks were. In fact, while former friends were fighting and calling each other names outside before school, I stood inside with Jeff Goldblum (yes him…a Jew); John, a white Catholic; Bruce, a black with concert violinist aspirations; and me, a white Christian. So I knew of difficulty with the races but isolated myself against it.

The movie, Hidden Figures, showed the ugliness and inequality of the whole racial situation. It was, to me, a blight on our country…to think of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves as basically a non-event in our nation’s history. I was struck by the way people were treated.

If I were you, I would make plans to see the movie. Go prepared to get angry. Go also with Kleenex because there are both happy/laughing moments, and also weepy moments. Above all, go prepared to be struck by the reality of God’s love for every individual…no matter the race or color.