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Alone

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

As in “leave well enough…”

This is not a post about being Alone, although I have had my share of that this past week as I’ve spent time with people who have lost people they love.

This is about something we say, why we say it and what brought it up.

I was in the local Circle K buying gas for my truck and mower and while waiting in line I looked down and about gagged. M&Ms staring me right in the face. Mint since the package was green?

NO.

Jalapeno-flavored M&Ms. Are you kidding me? Since I knew the clerk I made a comment to him and the other patron about it. Jalapeno-flavored M&Ms? The clerk shuddered along with me and the other customer when I said something, then the clerk said something wise (least in my eyes): “Why can’t they just leave chocolate alone?” Plain. Peanut. Mint. Crunch. Toffee. Caramel. Caramel with Sea Salt. Raspberry Crunch. Peanut Butter. I’m sure there are others.

But Jalapeno?

Sounds like some who thinks change is good. Change is good…if it has a purpose. But change for the sake of change? Not so. I want to ask them the same question as the clerk did: “Why can’t they just leave it alone?” I’m all for change. I don’t like sameness. I get bored. Changing the order of service around is okay by me. Changing the style of music (as long as it isn’t country, rap, hip hop, or any of those other foreign entities) is okay. 🙂 Changing seating is okay. You get my point. But to change the message. N.O. W.A.Y.  The medium may change but the message never changes.

The message of the cross must never change. We may present it differently than we have in the past or even than others do, but the message of the cross is rock solid. THAT MESSAGE NEVER CHANGES!! N.E.V.E.R!!! Have I said that enough?

We are in the week many denominations call “Holy Week.” While I don’t belong to one of them, nor do I put any extra emphasis on this week, I want to be mindful of what is coming. Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. I want my message on the cross to be specific and clear.  That message will never change and I will leave well enough it alone.

Done!

Friday, April 12th, 2019

There is nothing like the satisfaction of being able to shake our hands together and feel the relief of a job well done. Whether it is a one-day job or a month-long job, being able to breathe a sigh of accomplishment is a good thing.

There should be no question that Jesus lived a unique life. Even the people recognized something was different about Him. “No one ever spoke like this man” was not uncommon to hear. The religious leaders couldn’t handle His frankness and willingness to call it like it was when it came to their religious hypocrisy. Here is something you might find interesting. Max Lucado in his book He Chose the Nails has written a chapter called “I Understand Your Pain.” Near the end of the chapter he talks about fulfilled prophecies, especially at the end of Jesus’ life. After giving a breakdown of some of those prophecies, Max goes on to say that Jesus fulfilled 332 distinct prophecies in the OT. The mathematical possibilities of all these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man is 1/84 with 97 zeroes!! Now that is amazing and sort of throws a dagger into the old lie of “Jesus just happened to be the right man at the right time.”

The two statements I will be considering Sunday are just another example of fulfilled prophecies. One is a cry for relief and the other is a statement of completion. “I thirst.” “It is finished.”

I’m not ashamed to ask for your prayers. It has been a super long week and weekend and I can feel my body and mind a tad bit tired. I’d appreciate your prayers for my strength and also my spirit. And please say a prayer for those who listen.

PrayersAppreciated

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

The next two days will be days of an intense need for prayer.  I wrote on my other blog, Living in the Shadow, about the ordeal of this past weekend culminating in the death of a friend early Monday morning. You can read about it here.  The need for prayer is this afternoon is 4 hours of visitation and tomorrow another hour of visitation leading up the celebration service. My real concern is not so much me as it is the family. Misty was a hub in that family.

This is one of those times which is hard to understand. About a month ago I performed the funeral of a 70+ year old lady who had suffered from Parkinson’s for about 10 years.  But what to think of a young woman (the age of my daughter) struck down with cancer leaving behind two teenagers and a husband who adored her?  She fought bravely over the past year after being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.  She promised her family she would fight, and fight she did. Even several weeks ago when I was called to the hospital and they were expecting her to go after suffering a brain bleed that affected her speech for a few days, she was flanked by her children and told them, “I’m still fighting.” She fought on until she could not go anymore. After just a few days in the Hospice Care Center, she lost her battle…BUT WON.

Death is not a thing of beauty. The Bible calls it an enemy. Its power is legendary since the odds are 1/1 in its favor. Nevertheless a statement made in I Corinthians 15 tells us the real truth: “He must reign until He has put death under His feet.” (verse 26-27)  All science has done has possibly prolonged death in some cases, but it has and never will solve death.  Sooner or later death comes, but it is not the end. For the follower of Christ, it is just the beginning.  The beginning to so much more.  Saturday morning I was asked to come the Hospice House so Jo went with me. She loved Misty as well. Jeremy, her husband, was playing different songs she loved.  He chose LeAnn Womack’s song from a few years ago “I Hope You Dance” and then followed up with “I Can Only Imagine.” WOW! If that doesn’t tell a story!!

Today Misty is dancing in heaven. She is seeing and feeling better than she has in a year since her intense battle began. I’m going to miss her. I’m also jealous. But someday that will be me and for the first time in my life I will be dancing and singing on key. 🙂

Prayers are appreciated for all involved in today’s and tomorrow’s ordeal. Thanks. And one more thing, how about checking out Lisa’s post about her experience she just went through.  It is called “After Death, More Life.”

Effectiveness#3

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

This is my last post on the idea of Effectiveness as the church’s moniker and guiding principle. I’d encourage you to read Effectiveness #1 & #2 to see what my stream of thought has been.

Skye minces no words when we says,

We have replaced the love of the living God with sacrifices to the Idol of Effectiveness. When we bow to this idol, it steals our joy and replaces it with an unbearable burden. (P.24)

Because I was enamored with Church, Inc for awhile, I not only agree but also have to add something else. When I was pursuing this false idol the words which came out of my mouth quite a bit were “Excellence,” “Relevant,” ‘Impactful,” and others. All things were to be done with excellence and if not, I was embarrassed. Relevance is still around today. I dress casual but trust me when I say I DON’T wear the latest fashions (including $1000 shoes); sport a sleeve of tattoos (not that it is immoral but I just choose not to); nor do I globe trot the country because I have the latest “hot” thing. I prefer my local church and being a shepherd.

Here is what I finally learned (and Skye backs it up…not that he needed me to say that! 🙂 ): God does not judge whether I am relevant, or doing things with excellence or am making a global impact. He is more interested in me being faithful to the calling He has placed on my life. At the end of the day, that is all I need to concern myself with. Have I been faithful to Him? I don’t think He really cares about HOW I did them (excellently, etc) but whether I DID THEM for His glory.

Effective or Faithful? I cast my vote for Faithful.  How about you>

Effectiveness#2

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

“I’m afraid of living an insignificant life.” So said one speaker at a conference. That’s a good sentiment. I could say that as well. I might say it as “I want to leave a legacy.”

But here’s the rub: what is significant? What kind of legacy? Well….I guess it depends on who and what one listens to. If I listen to the world’s definition of significance, I’ll hear something totally different from God’s definition. Ask someone the definition of significance and most will tie it to something they have done-even though it may be something truly worthy like a home for unwed mothers, or a shelter, or feeding the homeless, etc. But that significance is tied to “do.”

When that idea creeps into a Christ-follower’s thinking, or the church, then it is easy to think my value (significance) is related to what I do, what I have achieved. I tie how I feel about myself to what I do. So the “bigger” something is the more significant my life appears to be.

NOT. TRUE.

Significance is not found in what I do or even don’t do. My value to God is based on what I am in His eyes. He isn’t going to hold me up and carry me on His shoulders to be praised before an adoring crowd. I’m not going to be ride the wave like a coach or star player after a huge victory. My significance is not based on my effectiveness (see Leader A vs Leader B again in that first post), but on my relationship with God. Service is good but it should never trump being with Him.

What do you think? Better yet, ask yourself how you view your significance. Is there a change I need to make so I can see myself through God’s eyes?

 

Effectiveness

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

I’m going to steal from my other blog for this week. I have been reading through (for a second time) and writing about a book by Skye Jethani called Immeasurable. I thought I would take this week here to write some thoughts about a chapter he titles Effectiveness. For today, here is a test:

Leader A. Lifted an entire nation in a time of despair. He mobilized his people against unimaginable odds with a clear vision and inspiring passion. He launched a movement that has impacted literally everyone alive today. He set in motion an industrial and scientific revolution that produced the first computer, the first jet airplane, began human exploration of space, and unlocked the mystery of nuclear energy.  Almost every aspect of the modern world has, in one way or another, been influenced by this man. By the time he died at the age of only 56, everyone on the planet knew his name. Without a doubt, Leader A changed the world.

Leader B. Lived during the same era. In fact, he died just 21 days before Leader A, but his life was very different. At the height of his influence, Leader B ran a school with just a hundred students. He wrote a few books but was not widely regarded.  He was beloved by his friends and family and had a reputation for being both intelligent and faithful, but at the time of his death almost no one knew his name, and most considered his life’s work unfulfilled-including Leader B himself.

So, given the choice, which leader’s strategies would you rather study? Which man’s life would you rather emulate? Which leadership conference would you rather attend-the one featuring a keynote address by Leader A, or the one with a small workshop in a back hall facilitated by Leader B?  GIVE YOUR ANSWER NOW (before I give the punch line).

If you are inspired by the world-changing effectiveness of Leader A, congratulations! You’ve chosen Adolf Hitler. Leader B was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his relentless opposition to Hitler.

So…how did you do? Whom did you pick? You see, simple effectiveness is not enough.  We often equate effectiveness with success. I once heard someone say, “It is not success that matter; it is faithfulness that matters.” I agree. To be “successful” is not wrong; it’s okay. But it is far better to be faithful to what we have been called to do.  I want to pursue this line of thought this week. Hope you will join me.

Consideration

Friday, March 29th, 2019

I am not preaching this weekend. My original plans had been to be in Phoenix for the MS ride, but the price of tickets and the lack of riding this winter kind of put the kabosh on that idea. So I am riding the MS150 in August of this year in Lebanon, IN. I am still raising money for MS so if you go to my page you can donate toward that effort.

Anyway, I am not preaching this weekend. Ryan is. Jo and I are taking a few days to get away. I need it more than I realized. It has been a really stressful Winter and Spring.  I’ll not bore you with my details…you have enough of them yourself I’m sure. We modified our Phoenix plan to do something else. I’m going to miss meeting some of my online Phoenix friends but there will another day…here or in heaven.

I’ve started rereading a book called Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. You can see more about it on my other blog, Living in the Shadow.  As sort of a teaser I would like to give you this quote from the book:

In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise. (p.11)

Skye goes on to make a comment about that.

“Just as the Greeks exalted philosophers and the Romans exalted soldiers, we exalt entrepreneurs and CEOs. Our culture celebrates their accomplishments and seeks to emulate their strategies.” (p.11)

I was once captured by the allure of “Church, Inc” as it has been called. I have several books in my office related to escaping that trap. One is called Escape from Church, Inc. by Glenn Wagner. A wonderful, powerful book!

I would like you to give some thought to these words. I’d also like to hear what you are thinking. You can comment here then go to my other blog and comment there on that post. (Yeah…shameless promotion).

Have a great weekend! Lord willing, see you when I get back.

OldAgeObservations

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

My title is Growing Old vs Getting Old.

There is a well-worn saying that stands the test of time:”There are two things which are certain-death and taxes.” No argument on that!! The rub is the part which usually precedes the death part: old age.

We have milestones in our lives. 21 signals “adulthood” (as if). 30 for a pastor was/is the magic age, i.e. a pastor is now old enough to show maturity, gain respect and to have been around the block a few times. 35-30 is supposed to be the pastor’s most productive years-something about youth and energy and learning. 🙂 40 is a tough age for some. 50 is even tougher because a sense of mortality is kicking in. 60 is seen as the start of the downhill slops. 65 is “retirement.” Beyond that? It’s anyone’s guess (largely because I’m not there yet).

I’d like to invite you to read the rest of this at my other blog, Living in the Shadow. I’d be honored if you would visit and consider leaving a comment there or here (or both). 🙂

AmazingBody

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

It never cease to amaze me…this body God has created. Not only are we all different sizes, shapes and colors, but we all grow, heal, and respond in different ways.

I have been blessed in the past. My body, while not without its quirks- bowlegged, skinny legs; no hair; long, lean muscles which will never get overly big although I’ve tried; and a cranky back- has been one which has stayed relatively healthy (in spite of the bike wrecks) with a somewhat quick ability to heal. God has blessed me with some pretty good health, even now in my 66th year.

BUT…there comes those times when your body finally says, “Enough is enough. You have used me enough and it is time to slow you down some.” That is what has been happening over I-don’t-know-how-many-weeks. I have pushed myself to get up at 3:30 every morning (not unusual) and go all day. I work out at the Y and on the off days I was riding for an hour or so inside on my trainer. I was not sleeping well. We traveled to Ohio to visit family and slept on a hard hotel bed for 3 nights. I came home and immediately was bombarded with stuff that needed attention. At the same time I was fighting off the same junk everyone else around here has. It caught up with me yesterday (Wednesday). I slept very little the night before. Slept 1 1/2 hours in my office chair before anyone got here (and I wasn’t even aware it was happening) until finally I was encouraged by Jo and the church secretary I looked bad. My upper part of my nose where my glasses sit looked big, was sensitive to the touch, and to put it mildly, I was miserable. Jo talked me into going to the clinic where they diagnosed me with “backside deep sinus infection” or something like that. They gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and steroid to take, sent me home, and I proceeded to sleep for 3 hours. I’m talking “lights out for 3 hours.”

Guess my body said, “It’s my turn to get some proper attention.” Psalm 139 receives a lot of attention in the discussion of abortion -and well it should- but I keep going back to that one small phrase: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who else could have created a body like this? Who else could have created a body so intricately and finely made like this? Who else could have created a body with the ability to take blows and heal like it does?  Only ONE.

I am grateful to the ONE who alone could have done this. No AI will be able to accomplish anything remotely close to this.

Fair

Monday, March 18th, 2019

For the first time since I started writing my blog in 2008 I failed to post a weekend blog about my Sunday sermon.  I’d like to beg off by saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It would be more accurate to say, “Time supersonics when you’re busy.” It seems like I was a “day late and a dollar short” all weekend long. Not that anything bad happened it was just so full.  I’ll not bore you with all the details, let’s just suffice it to say, I was swamped.

My sermon was on Psalm 73 and I called it “Life’s Not Fair!”  Those three words often fall off the lips of our children and we might say back, “Tough! Life’s not fair. Deal with it!” But there are some issues that snarky attitude just doesn’t fit. Seeing dishonest people get ahead. A weeping widow at a graveside wondering why the drunken driver lived but not her husband and the children’s father. A child being rushed to the hospital, the victim of a terrorist bomb. Scenarios like those and more don’t want easy, cliche-laden answers. Saying life isn’t fair is not reserved for kids. There are weightier matters that not even adults have an answer for.

Asaph (the author of Psalm 73) had similar questions.  He allowed his self-pity to take him to the bottom because he admits his heart was filled with envy, resentment and confusion.  Asaph found himself at the bottom of the barrel and needed a lift. He found it in the presence of God.  It was there Asaph was able to recalibrate his heart.

That’s not a bad idea on this Monday morning. A busy week ahead assures me of some needed quiet time for recalibration.  How about you?