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#PromisesPromises#Wisdom

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Most people are familiar with one of the most amazing stories of wisdom in all of literature. It involves two mothers fighting over a dead child and a live child. Discarding the dead child, they began to argue over whose the live one was. The arbitrator declares to split the baby in half and give each one a part. One says, “Yes” while the other says, “No.” The judge decides the one who said no is the real mother simply because the real mother would never want her child to die. You probably recognize that as a story in the life of King Solomon, who shortly before that event had taken over as king of Israel.

I started working on this first sermon in the new series, Promises, Promises, on May 11th.  I think it was week #1952 of what had become known as the lockdown. Okay, so maybe it was only week #9, but you have to admit to some it sure felt like an eternity! 🙂  When the Covid-19 mess took over, I decided to change my whole summer series of sermons and focus on Biblical promises/answers to challenges which have risen as a result of life (not just the virus). Then the George Floyd event happened.

The question we all face is this: “What now?” How do I respond not only to the whole Covid thing, but also to the senseless killing and violence as a result. How do I filter my own thoughts? We need to start by seeking wisdom-divine wisdom-not man’s wisdom. As we have seen, man’s wisdom falls short.

My sermon Sunday is Wisdom to Find the Right Page and will be from Proverbs 1: 1-7, 20-32.  What better place to start than there? I would deeply appreciate your prayers as I start this important, and possibly life-changing series.  And just as an aside: you can watch it on our FB page or on YouTube as it is live-streamed. The link to those is on the church’s website. Thanks for visiting here and for your prayers. 

#SpecialBlessing#Gift#Birthday

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I wrote this yesterday, June 3rd, while in Ohio. I did not have the opportunity to post it early and when I came to the office after getting home, the internet was down. (Thank you Comcast. It was down all over is what I heard). Anyway, I am posting this a day late but the sentiment is not any different.  Here is what I wrote:

45 years ago my life changed forever. Given that I’m only in my 50s you are probably thinking that is when I gave my life to Jesus and am celebrating that birthday.  You would be wrong. First, because I’m not in my 50s (I’m 67). Second, even though giving my life to Jesus was the most life-changing event of all, it was not that.

45 years ago today Tamra Jo was born around 9:45 p.m. at Akron General Hospital in Akron, OH. It had been a long day. A normal doctor appointment turned into a toxemia diagnosis which led us to the ER for immediate admittance to the hospital and an induction of labor.  That was about 11:00 a.m.  Around 8 that evening, after going through hours of labor (which Jo does not remember), they began to prep her for a C-section. Then the doctor came in and asked if it would be okay to hold off Jo’s surgery for an hour. The woman next door was trying to have her baby but the heartbeat was getting fainter.  Jo was out of it so I said, “Of course.”  The time finally arrived and he sent me to the waiting room (that was before men were allowed in the delivery room). He came out later to tell me, “Congratulations! You have a healthy baby.”  Me: “What is it?”  Him: “A girl. 7 lb 14oz.”  Me: “Oh.” Disappointed it was not a boy. But one look and that all changed. We only had boy’s names picked out so it took about 3 days for me to name her. (Jo was not thinking very clearly).

She has been a joy to have and raise.  Her heart has always sought God. She stood her ground in high school when a boy made a rude, crude remark to her one time. She hauled off and hit him and said, “Don’t you ever say that to me again.” That’s my girl! She changed her major in college 3 times (Athletic trainer, TV production, teacher). The latter has been her profession for 22 years. After living in Knoxville on her own for 15 years, she moved to Spencer to be closer to her aging parents 🙂 and her nephew. The latter hasn’t panned out as she had hoped but it has been nice to have her close. She may not be a mother (never married) but Jo put it well this past Mother’s Day: She is a mom to 20+ kids every year.

Best thing? Her heart still beats for God. And she still loves us!! How’s that for great?  🙂 Happy Birthday Tami. I love you more than you know.

 

#Different#GraceNeeded

Monday, June 1st, 2020

I’m in Ohio for the first part of this week so I will say right up front that I wrote this Saturday night. Sunday has not happened yet (obviously) 🙂   So as I write this I have no idea what tomorrow (Sunday) will bring. I am cautiously optimistic since that tends to be my nature.  But here is what I wrote Saturday night:

Costi Hinn is Bennie’s nephew. Several years ago he broke away from the health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel Bennie preaches (and still does) to follow Jesus. In a recent blog he wrote, Costi wrote the following (referring to navigating the COVID-19 crisis and getting back to assembling together:

If there is one word to describe how we must navigate re-assimilation it’s this: grace.

I can see that. Even among the three of us (Ryan, Diana, and me) we have different ideas. I’m more eager to get back together and if I had my druthers go full bore. I agree with the man in my congregation who said, “Bill, I am so tired of hearing certain words: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer (and others I can’t remember).” Even though Jim is in a highly volatile business (grocery store), I can’t argue.  Ryan is tired of the whole mess and has seen his plans for the summer go up in smoke and new ones will have to be developed. Diana is the cautious one of the three. Always has been. But we agree to disagree and move on. We worked on putting a plan in place we all agreed on and we will continue doing that.

  • I am the spur ahead, but sometimes careful, optimist.
  • Ryan is the contemplative direction (he likes spreadsheets) and thinking things through logically guy.  🙂
  • Diana is the cautious realist. (She is female after all).

Blend all three together and you have our reopening plan. We need all kinds of people and grace is needed.  I haven’t always liked the slow moving but it is necessary to tone me down. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I probably irritated the two of them somewhere along the way.  I despise the idea of wearing a mask and social distancing.  Our people spoke through the survey we sent out and so in deference to them I will do what needs to be done.  Oh yeah, and the governor of Indiana, whom I respect for the way he has tried to handle this mess.  🙂

Here’s what Costi says:

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life.
  2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life.
  3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective.
  4. People matter more than my opinion.

So…what will it be? Grace or bull-headedness?

“Father, help me to choose grace, to choose love over my own desires and wisdom.”

Note: I have also posted this on my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

#MemorialDay#Tribute#Jesus

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Over at my other blog I wrote the following devotion. I decided to do double duty today and also post it here.  My plans today involve working on a sermon, having an early morning ride, then spending the rest of the day with my wife and daughter.  Here is my devotion:

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

#Friends#Close#Praying#Loyal

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

I mentioned in another post in another life (just kidding. I have no clue where I wrote it) that when I became a youth pastor after college the Senior Pastor once told me to “never get close to anyone in ministry.” He was not talking about colleagues, especially since his son is my long-time best male friend (over 46 years). He was talking about people within the church I was serving. I understand his words, but I was just never able to do that.  Reason? As I matured I was able to see that I was a very social creature.  I score multi-high on the extrovert scale.

Friends are important to me on various levels. I have had cycling friends who have come and gone.  Jim is now about the only one close enough in distance. I count Dave (3 Feet Please) a friend but he lives in Arizona. Sort of hard to get together to ride. 🙂  After years of legalism, I have ministry friends outside my “camp.” I’m richer for it. I have “Y”/lifting friends whom I have not seen over the past 10 weeks or so because of some crazy virus.  But the most friends I have are church friends. Males whom I love to get together with. Granted, there are some “guards” I have to put up, but I know if I need them for anything they will come.

The final sermon from Colossians is like a “Who’s Who” in Paul’s life.  Starting in 4:7 Paul gives a list of very dear and close friends. I’ve categorized them as such:

  • Close friends
  • Praying friends
  • Loyal friends

We need all of them in some way in our life. I’ve titled the sermon A Little Help from My Friends.  And yes, you can cue the Beatles song. I did.  “No man is an island” it has been said. My sermon this morning will show the importance of friends to Paul…and to us. I’d love to have you pray for me and for those listening online. In fact, I’d love to have you join me!

#Generosity#Covetousness

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Okay… so I have another blog that very few people read. It is a devotional blog where each day (except weekends) I post a devotional thought from my reading for the day. Or whatever comes across my mind that I feel led to share. I wrote about Generosity and Covetousness today. I’d love to have you visit that blog, read, and comment. You can find it here.

Seriously, I’d be honored if you would visit and comment there. Thanks.

#SpeakUp#WordsMatter

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Is there any doubt in your mind our speech betrays us?  When you think about it we can use our speech for good or bad. The way we use it reveals a lot about us.  I found a few quotes I plan to use Sunday. See if you can relate:

“A sharp tongue is the only edge that grows keener (sharper in our vernacular) with constant use.” Washington Irving

“If your lips would keep from slips, Five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; and how, and when, and where.” William Norris

“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.” Greek sage Publius

I’ve said a lot about our speech, especially on my “Living in the Shadow” blog. Weave your way through the Bible, especially the NT, and you can see the importance of good speech in about every book.  In our world of information overload, where tweets, posts, pins, and texts are thrown around with great abandon, it’s easy to believe that words are unimportant, weak, meaningless, and hollow. But we KNOW they aren’t.

Sunday I’m using Colossians 4:2-6 as my Scripture and I’ve divided it into two main thoughts:

  1. Speak Up when talking to God!
  2. Speak Up when talking to Others!

How about saying a prayer for us Sunday? That hits #1.  I know I’d sure appreciate it. And we would love to have you join us at 10:00. We will have a link for you on FB to be able to watch it on YouTube is what I am told. (Call me technologically-challenged). Either case- your prayers are longed for. Thanks.

#Manipulation#Critique#Toxic

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

I just finished reading When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas, a book I mentioned in my last post about Finding Freedom from Toxic People.  It has been a really good book, one that will take some time digesting and reading over the highlighted thoughts and sections. I want to use one of the thoughts as a springboard for this post.

If you are like me you tire-and I mean really tire-of people accusing us of basically being mean and narrow and bigoted.  You say something they don’t agree with and you can hear it coming from a million miles away: “Aren’t you Christians supposed to forgive? How come you aren’t acting like a Christian?” Or they will say, “You are nothing more than a narrow, bigoted hypocrite.”  To quote Gary:

They don’t really care if we’re acting like a Christian though. They just want us to do what they want us to do, and they’re using our faith as a weapon to manipulate and control. (p.146)

I always find it interesting when someone who does not claim any allegiance to Christ or to Christianity or to Biblical principles tries to lecture us on those very same issues. Do you sense a disconnect here?  People like this are masters at lecturing or deciding for us how we are supposed to act AND YET they make no claim-they even scoff at the idea-of following Christ.  The problem as I see it is that the atheist or the non-conformist or the immoral person wants to spout off their junk, but when someone questions them or stands against them they rear their ugly head in shock and toxicity and shame-throwing. They are masters at lecturing us how we ought to behave and yet are unwilling to listen to the truth because it will go against their carefully crafted lifestyle and belief system.  They aren’t so much interested in me acting like a Christ-follower should as much as they want me and you to do what they want us to do.  Long story short: approve of their lifestyle and belief system and not counter them or make them feel guilty.

My purpose as a follower of Christ is to please God. To bring fame to His Name. To honor Him in all things.  I have to keep in mind my approval by others is not on the table. Don’t allow someone to manipulate you into playing his games by his rules.

#Compelled#GiveItAll

Monday, May 11th, 2020

I’ve been reading When to Walk Away (Finding Freedom from Toxic People) by Gary Thomas. Lots of good stuff! I am learning so much! But there was a statement he made that rang true to me and has stuck with me.

Don’t worry about what you don’t yet have. Just give whatever God has given you.

I think all of us, no matter who we are, wonder from time to time if we are giving God all we can.  Or sometimes we feel somewhat incomplete is what we give or maybe unequal to the task. “If only I could do…” or “If only I had…” Next time you are hankering a pity party consider the saying above. I heard it once said, “God is not so much interested in your ability, as He is your availability.”

Be compelled to be His. Be compelled to Give it All.

#Reflection#Addition#Subtraction

Monday, May 4th, 2020

This morning I was going through some old journals trying to find something I had copied and had used at one time. I finally found it, but in the meantime I ran across something else I had written (circa 2011).  Here is something for you and me to think about as we head into this new week:

Everyday I do something that either adds to or subtracts from another person.

Lie-Stealing truth

Plagiarizing- Stealing credit

Murder- Stealing life

Am I a giver or a taker? And adder or a subtractor?