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#Shepherd#Platform#Integrity

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

In Psalm 78:72 it says of David “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with skillful hands.”  Some translations use the word “integrity” for upright.  This verse is talking about David’s approach toward the people of Israel. David served the people as their shepherd with integrity. That verse has always been at the forefront of my brain ever since I read it years ago.  It serves as a challenge to me to shepherd the people i serve with integrity.

Maybe that is why I have not cared whether I became “known” or not.  Oh…wait a minute. That’s not true. There was a time I cared a lot…an awful lot. I would hear of friends of mine who were preaching at large churches or conducting meetings in other churches and the “J” word would kick in. (That would be “J”ealousy for those who are unsure).  But then I began to think about time and schedule. I began to be involved in watching my daughters play ball. I wondered about sermon prep. When did they have the time to do that while jetsetting all over the globe? (Then I found out many of them have assistants who do all the research and sometimes even write the sermons).  I thought about the one thing I really like to do as an aside (cycle) and wondered when could I do that? Certainly not on a plane or in a hotel (stationary bikes are another word for B-O-O-O-R-I-N-G!).  Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this was “finding” the verse from Psalm 78. When would I have the time to be a shepherd?  Now, if I wanted to be a CEO-type  then, by all means, have at it! But I wasn’t called to be a CEO. I was called to be a pastor, a shepherd. The day I realized that was the day I quit worrying about what others thought; how big I could get; how “known” I could be; and became satisfied with being a shepherd of the church God gave me to serve.  Amazing how the perspective changes.  My worst enemy (ME) was put to death that day.

I’d rather be found faithful shepherding my sheep in an obscure, out-of-the-way little town than be serving an image of myself being applauded.  I’d rather be here than anywhere else.

#Stand!#Don’tBowDown!

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

With traveling to PA and then to Ohio my week definitely got away from me as did posting about Sunday’s sermon. Let me put it this way: I started a new series last week that will go through the whole summer. I am calling it Heroes. The first one last week was from Daniel 1. If you read that chapter you know it is the story of Daniel and his 3 friends: Rack, Shack and Benny (as Veggie Tales puts it).  It was titled Cooperation without Compromise. Daniel and his 3 friends had the choice all of us have when confronted by a “test.”

  1. The first option is Absorption. This person basically is absorbed and assimilated into the culture.
  2. The second option is Withdrawal. This is commonly seen in cults and, in the days of the early church, the Essenes. We see this now in the Amish people who believe withdrawal is the best way to avoid evil. (Have I got news for them!)
  3. The third is Cooperation without Compromise. This is the Daniel way. I’d like to encourage you to read Daniel 1 to find out how that happens.

This week’s sermon is called We Won’t Bow Down! Bet you can’t guess what that story is about!! 🙂  If you guessed Daniel’s three friends give yourself a virtual high-five. Daniel 3 is where the story is.  I’m not going to say much more about it here except this- Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego made a choice not to bow down to the image. They were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace when they were given one last chance to change their minds. I love their words: “We believe our God will deliver us but even if not we will not bow down!” WOW!!

So Sunday I’m going to take that very familiar story and try to breathe some life into it so that we can all walk away, especially the dads, with a resolve to stand not bow. Your prayers would be appreciated. Thanks.

#Goodman#Worthemulating

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

I was in the presence of a good man last night. I might even venture to say a great man.  My Uncle Bob is the last of the family. My grandparents had 3 natural children and adopted one. My mother was one of those natural children, and my uncles Bill and Bob were the other two. My mother and my Uncle Bill have both moved on to their heavenly home. Both victims of cancer.

My Uncle Bob will be 83 in August. My Aunt Dee will be 82. They live in Arlington, TX and have for as long as I can remember. They have also lived in the Azores, Okinawa, Grissom AF base, and places I can’t remember. He served 31 years in the Air Force and after he retired he served as a postal carrier for 11 years. His knee finally let him down and like his dad before him and his nephew (that would be me) after him, a knee replacement had to happen. Two of his children live near them and one lives in Utah.  The last time we saw them was back around 2011 when they had made a trip to the Northeast (New Hampshire) to see Aunt Dee’s family and then they swung down through to see me and Jo. They were on their way back home when he called Monday night and asked if we could meet up for supper.

Sounds normal doesn’t it?  What is so special about that you may be asking. You see…Aunt Dee has Alzheimers. She started it about the time they came by in 2011. She cannot speak or tell you what is on her mind in any way, shape, or form.  All she does is mumble with an occasional strong-willed sound (like when I tried to help her drink and she wanted to do it herself).  They will soon be married 59 years this year. He takes care of her 24/7. Each morning he gets her up and they go to the mall to walk (he pushes her in a wheelchair).  He feeds her, bathes her, helps her do all that needs to be done. But you know what he really does? HE LOVES HER WELL. We ate at Cheddars last night with them and spent one of the most delightful evenings in memory. We laughed. Reminisced. Talked about family. (My dad was never keen on family so being a close knit one with mom’s was never a priority so we lost touch with cousins long time ago).  Oh yeah, did I say we laughed a lot? It was getting to be 8:30 when we finally said our “Goodbye’s.” He needed to get Aunt Dee to bed so they could get up and make the long trek back to TX.

He has been through a lot watching his bride deteriorate as she has. Screaming all night long. Unable to speak or communicate her love for him. But watching him lovingly rub her shoulder or labor to get her from her chair to the van was proof of something Jo said earlier in the evening: “In sickness and in health. For better or for worse.”  He was a living embodiment of that commitment.

Thank you Uncle Bob for a real live example of someone who loves well. For all time. No matter the situation.

#LoneRanger#DIY

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

On my other blog, Living in the Shadow, I touched on this idea of being a Lone Ranger or a Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY). Since that is more of a devotional blog I had to limit what I said and how I applied it. I’d like to expand on my thoughts here.  Perhaps you might like to read my devotion here and then come back with an idea of where my head is.

As a pastor, it is easy to get the “heady” idea-both personally and given by others-that I (any pastor) is a solver of all sorts of problems. When I was talking about going into the ministry when I was in high school, I can still remember my mom turning in the car and saying, “Just remember, honey, to do it for the right reason.” You see, back then the pastor was “the parson” and looked up to by about everyone. The business community respected them. The schools looked to them for help.  No question the people in the church sought him out for help in about every area of life. As I see it, pride was a constant enemy to guard against.  But, of course, it is no longer that way. For the most part it is because of our changing world. But some of it is our own fault.  Pride did become an issue. As well as several other nefarious acts.

As I have gotten older I have realized more and more that the Lone Ranger with the silver bullet was not wise. For years I thought I could do my work on my own, by myself. Experience AND AGE has taught me differently. In spite of myself, I have come to see God is so much bigger than I had given Him credit for and can actually work better if I get out of the way! 🙂 🙂  We often hear people talking (myself included) about how we often put God in a box. Well, I have come to the conclusion that is what I often did. Not on purpose mind you, but I have to now admit that. I had narrowed Him by my own attitude.

You can see how God handled that in Numbers 11 and by checking out my devotion. But what is interesting to me is Joshua’s reaction.  He had been with Moses since childhood and saw God’s involvement as a threat to Moses’ leadership. Moses gently corrected him. Joshua saw God as acting outside the system he was used to. But God was expanding Moses’ influence and Joshua’s perception and world. I like the quote I read by Skye Jethani in his book, Immeasurable. He writes:

Rather than operate like the wind, we’d prefer the Spirit operate like an electric fan that we can control to perpetually blow in the same direction. (p.90)

I’m not an advocate of “willy-nilly-Spirit-work” but he has a point. Sometimes God just doesn’t operate like we would like Him to. “The wind blows where it wants” is also true of the work of the Spirit. What Joshua needed to realize, and I do as well, is that God will do what He wants with or without my input or help.

I need to get out of His way. I also need to realize I am not a Lone Ranger; I need others to help do the work. Moses had 70 others (Numbers 11). Joshua had to get with the program. May I, may you, be humble enough to submit to His agenda.

#Enemies

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Before we moved here to Spencer, we lived in Castalia, OH, just outside Sandusky. You know…the home of Cedar Point. We originally moved to Castalia after my ministry in Terre Haute was finished and we sold our house a whole lot quicker than the realtor thought. So we moved in with Jo’s mom who was still living in the house she and Jo’s late father had rented. Castalia was known for having a Cold Creek Festival every year that surprisingly for a little burg was well-attended. It’s other claim to fame was the Cold Creek, a pond and its tributaries that never froze. Of course, when you have that you have a nuisance that develops. Geese. Canadian Geese. Geese of all kinds. Geese that take over the pond. Geese that take over the streets (there was a $1500 fine if you killed one). And geese that left their “gifts” (poop) everywhere. They didn’t care where.

I hated (despised) those animals and I say that without apologies to PETA or any other animal rights group who figures animals are as precious as humans (but think nothing of killing an unborn baby in a womb. Oh, but don’t touch those eagle eggs). Now…understand I’m not for cruelty toward animals but this nonsense has to stop somewhere. Okay. Off soapbox.

I disliked those animals and their deposits. My neighbor tried everything, even remote control trucks to run them off his property. He finally got the town to stop allowing them to be fed at the pond and to remove the food machines. Then he got them to pass an ordinance to get rid of a whole bunch of them, especially ducklings by taking them away.

They were mean animals. They thought nothing of putting their head down and charging. I have heard of people being attacked and hurt badly by their attacks. But after driving the lawnmower over their gifts or stepping in them in the yard, one can only take so much. Fortunately, what I have to worry about here mostly is deer, skunks, and birds flying overhead (hence I always close my sunroof when parked).

A number of years ago (mid ’80s) when Frank Peretti came out with his two hit novels, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, the idea of spiritual warfare “hit the fan.” His books were entertaining reading but people forgot they were fiction. Just fiction. But people acted like they were real. Demons were under every rock and behind every cold, body ache, mishap, and every other bad thing.

The real truth is spiritual warfare is a real thing. A serious thing. It is important that we acknowledge our enemy is real and is “out for blood” and wants nothing more than to destroy us. We have proof of his devastation. Just look around at our world.  He is also reeking havoc in the church. It’s time we acknowledge his “realness” and then say, “The battle is God’s.” Let’s enlist His help.

#Quotes#JackieHillPerry

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

In my last post I reviewed Jackie Hill Perry’s book, Gay Girl Good God. I had one response to it so either it was not read (a possibility) or it touched a nerve (and no one wanted to go there). But in that review I mentioned some great quotes JHP made and I planned on sharing them. So, in this post I want to do just that.

[Eve] figured fruit and not faith, sin and not obedience, would give her the wisdom she needed to be more perfect than she already was. Interestingly enough, some of what she saw was true. The tree was indeed good for food and pleasant to the sight; God had made it that way. The deception was in believing that the tree was more satisfying to the body and more pleasurable to the sight than God.  (p.18)

Just as Eve let her body tell her what she should do with it, instead of God’s Word, which would’ve reminded her of what she was made for, I was inevitably prone to the same kind of unbelief. The one in which sin seemed better than submission. Or where women, who are beautifully and wonderfully made, just as the tree had been, would be more beautiful and more wonderful than I considered God to be. (p.21)

Apparently, this body was never mine to begin with-it was given to me from Somebody, for Somebody. (p.51)  {That follows her quoting Colossians 1:16}

I was able to want God because the Holy Spirit was after my affections just as much as he was after my obedience. (p.84)

When the Holy Spirit made His home within me, He snatched the blinds down and let the light in. Not only could I see God and his glory with a smile on my face, but I could also see sin for the liar that it was.” (p.84)

Following Jesus [means] not only eternal life but also a crucified one. (p.168)  {Note: Paula White would have a real problem with this one. See here for what she said about denying yourself.

Our sexuality is not our soul, marriage is not heaven, and singleness is not hell. So may we all preach the news that is good for a reason. For it proclaims to the world that Jesus has come so that all sinners, same-sex attracted and opposite-sex attracted, can be forgiven of their sins to love God and enjoy Him forever. (p.190)

There are a ton more quotes I could include but this is enough. I hope, perhaps, they are enough to encourage you to get the book and give it a read. I don’t believe you will be disappointed.

#ReadThis

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

We are so different…she and I.

I’m white. She is not.

I’m a man. She is not.

I’m tall. She is not.

I have no hair. She has tons of it. 🙂

I like rock music. I’m guessing she does not.

I’m a lifetime heterosexual. She was a lesbian.

I write for fun. She writes for her livelihood.

But one thing we have in common. We both believe in the power of redemption that comes from the Cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on that cross.

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been

I have to admit my first thought about reading this book since its release several months ago was I don’t want to read or hear of another “I-was-born-this-way-so-don’t-ask-me-to-change” book.  But after reading review after review I decided to take the plunge and buy it. Then I had to read it after a few weeks on my shelf. (In fairness, I was reading another book at the time).

I. AM. SO. GLAD. I. READ. THIS. BOOK!! I would highly recommend it to everyone. JHP’s way of saying things shows her “wordsmith” talents. I don’t need to be a fan of her style of poetry or music to like the way she says things in this book. Straight-forward.  Non-compromising in her stance. Honest in her discussion of her past (molestation, abuse, drug use and lesbianism). I was impressed when on page 37 she said, “It is important to note that sexual abuse is not what made me gay. Nor did fatherlessness. They only exaggerated and helped direct the path for what was already there-which is sin.”  No blame. No “I was born gay.” Just a note at the bottom of the page stating sin was the culprit. Thank you JHP for that truth.

I tire of those who hate gays. No…make that I distance myself from them. I don’t hate gays; I just don’t believe their lifestyle choice is biblical. I firmly believe same sex action is sin. But hating the person is not Christ-like nor is it ever going to reach someone with the message of the love of Christ.  Just the exact opposite.  Our little community has a very vocal homosexual community. It boasts of having one of the best attended PRIDE festivals in the state, maybe the country. Tolerance they ask for only goes so far until you disagree with them. Recent vandalism against their property was uncalled for. But they are still people. Still people like thousands of others in our community and around the world who need Jesus.  Thanks to JHP’s book, I not only have a better attitude toward them, but I also have a book I can put in their inquiring minds and hands that will show them Jesus’ love.

My plan is to include some of her quotes in another post since this one has already gone on so long. I’d like to think you will look forward to that post. 🙂

I’d highly suggest you buy and read this book. Then pray for opportunities to pass it along or to put it into practice.

#ILied

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Yeah…I lied. Well, not on purpose. It’s funny what a pastor will do when God steps in and stops him from doing what he had worked so hard to do.

Yeah…that be me. And God.

Saturday morning I was studying for my sermon when I “heard” this voice say, “Hey Bill! put that aside. I have something else for you to do.”

“Say what?”

“Yeah. I want you to put that prepared sermon aside and I want to preach on something else.”

“God, is this you? Am I hearing you correctly?’

“Yes, it’s Me. And yes, you are hearing me correctly. I want you to preach on something else. I had you read and blog about David, Nabal and Abigail on Friday for a reason. Now I want you to put it to use.”

“And how so?”

“I want you to preach what I tell you to preach on Sunday. I don’t want you to focus on mothers but on women in all stages of life. ”

So I did. I called the sermon A Wise Woman and used I Samuel 25 as my Scripture. Shortly after the sermon is done you can find it on the church’s website and listen to the podcast.  I hope you find it challenging and good for your heart, especially if you are a woman.

As for the sermon on Suffering from Romans 8: 18-27? Stay tuned next week for it.  There was an old commerical: “When EF Hutton speaks everybody listens.” Well…when God speaks Bill has to listen.

#SayWhat?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

I don’t normally do this type of post but it is one of those “I-just-can’t-help-myself” moments. Notice the title of the post and when I am done hopefully you will understand why I have chosen that title.

Like I said, I try to avoid this type of post but I have become passionately concerned about the Gospel. I remember once in a college class the professor was talking about one of the personalities and the issue of defending the Bible came up. The personality said, “The Bible doesn’t need defended.” So it may seem to be superfluous for me to write this post but I feel a very strong urge to write this. I guess some might see it as nit-picking where I don’t need to pick nits but I do hope you will see why.

I recently read an article written by Al Mohler entitled “Theology makes its way into the headlines again.” The rest of the title is a dead giveaway as to the reason for my post so I’m going to hold off on that. Edward Luce, who is the American editor of the Financial Times in London, visited Lakewood Church and then wrote about it in the pages of the Financial Times. His article was entitled “A Preacher for Trump’s America: Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel.” Now you know…

I’m not going to comment on the article but I do want to share a few things that were in it and they are not political! They are insane. They are ungodly. They are heretical.

First, the insane. Luce writes, “With a fortune estimated at $60 million and a mansion listed on Zillow at $10.7 million, Osteen is hardly living like a friar. His suburban Houston home has three elevators, a swimming pool and parking for 20 cars, including his $230,000 Ferrari 458 Italia.”  {My comment:I guess the prosperity gospel has really worked for him! But that is insane! Asking people to sacrifice so someone can benefit? Nah doesn’t fly}.

Now for the heretical. Two things.

Paula White, another heretical prosperity guru (now married to Jonathan Cain the keyboardist for Journey) said, “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is Satan.” Say What? What did she just call Jesus?

Mr. Osteen comes down to Jesus’ last words spoken by Jesus on the Cross, “It is finished.” And we are told that Jesus was not actually declaring His imminent death. In effect, said Osteen, Jesus meant instead, “The guilt is finished, the depression is finished, the low self-esteem is finished, the mediocrity is finished, it is all finished.”

Can I gag? Do you get that same lurching feeling? How, in the name of all that is holy and righteous, can two people get things so wrong? And they are not alone. I could name names but will choose not to.  And there is more to the Financial Times article, but this is enough. Make no mistake about what I am saying please! These are not godly speakers. (I cringe at using the word preachers about either one of them). This is pure, unadulterated heresy.

My questions are many but three stand out: why can’t people see this? Are we so biblically illiterate that we have no discernment? Why are we not speaking out against junk like this?

So…what do you think?

Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?