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#Life#Sacred#SpeakUp

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Every once in a while a pastor has to-by design or by expository preaching through a book-come across a subject which is uncomfortable or controversial.  I think people are much more forgiving if you are preaching through a book and come across an uncomfortable subject, like say…tithing.  But when a pastor gets on his soapbox or high horse and screams and challenges any opposite view that is when listeners get “antsy.”

This Sunday has the potential to be one of the latter. Way back in September when I doing a series called “Q&A” one of the questions was going to be “What About Abortion?”  I scrapped it because the time was not right (for several reasons). I then chose to not preach about it before the election lest someone think I was hyping a particular political position and was against a certain candidate.

Here is why I held off: I do not believe abortion is a political issue, nor should it be. I believe it is a Biblical issue, a moral issue.  I heard a podcast this past week where Alisa Childers was interviewing John Cooper, the lead singer of the Christian rock band, Skillet. John said the same thing-that it was a Biblical issue.  Anyway, when I started working on the Ecclesiastes series Life Matters, it seemed to fall in line that now was the time.  Couple that with this Sunday being “Sanctity of Life” Sunday and it was like the perfect storm.

I have no intention of being judgmental or to froth at the mouth out of contempt for those who perform or have had, campaign for or even encouraged an abortion. There is enough guilt thrown at them without me adding to it.  My approach is going to be simple and straightforward: How pro-life is the Bible? and How does God see the unborn? A massive amount of Scripture will be used with the final emphasis on Psalm 139: 13-18.

Each week I invite you to join me/us in our worship. We will be live this week with both services being offered in person and live stream.  So I do invite you to join us at 9 & 10:45. However, the best and greatest thing you can do is P.R.A.Y. I want the message of the Bible to come through loud and clear, that the cacophony of voices will be silenced, and God will be heard. Thanks ahead of time.

#NewYear’sMessage#Guest

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Sometime in 2019 (yeah tha-a-a-a-t long ago) Jo and I ran across a show we made a staple. We were actually late to the party since they had already cancelled their show for the purpose of refocusing. Understand. HGTV did not cancel the top-rated show. They did. The show was Fixer Upper starring Chip and Joanna Gaines. I loved the show, watching them do what they did. I did not nor do I care about what people thought about the changes they made, nor whether it was put on or not (it was not). Jo once said, “Good grief, Bill. I think I found your alter-ego.” Not in the handyman category to be sure, but in his sense of humor, love of life, silly antics, and tireless energy. I was honored she said that. Anyway, coming sometimes in 2021 on their own network is a new Fixer Upper. I’ll watch it providing our cable provider supplies it or we can stream it.

All that say: I get their blog sent to my blog reader. This is the first I can remember that Chip actually wrote one. Joanna is the real “thinker” of the two. But at the first of the year, Chip wrote a blog, A New Year’s Message from Me (Chip). It was so good I thought I would share it with you.

Let’s just call it like it is: 2020 was rough. Not rough around the edges. Not rough in a lovable sort of way. Just straight up rough.

Watching the news, hearing messages of doubt, and division, stories of loved ones passing away, seeing so many lose their jobs and live at odds with their neighbors. That stuff gets to me, it’s heartbreaking, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But you don’t need another reminder of what this year cost. Across the board, we all lost something. We all sacrificed something. We all watched something we had worked incredibly hard for be put on hold or forgotten or lost altogether. And without a doubt, we need time to grieve and reflect on the heartbreak, the sadness, and the loss.

But maybe today is a time to be reminded that darkness always gives way to light, that endings always give way to new beginnings. That the ups don’t last forever, and neither do the downs. Between peaks there are always valleys, and no matter how long we’re in the valley, we can always look up and see that we’re not just wandering around in vain, that hope really does carry us forward.

It’s been said that there’s a time for everything. A time for weeping and a time for laughing. A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to mourn and a time to dance. We’ve all lived through these varying seasons before, but never all together. This year changed that.

And it got me thinking.. whatever it is that divides us pales in comparison to the thread that weaves us together, that guides us toward an understanding of why we’re all here. What it all means. What this life we’ve been given is really for.

For me, as I step into 2021, I know we can all love more. We can all understand more. We can all listen and learn more. We get a say in how we respond to all that’s happened in 2020, how much hope we’re going to carry across the valley and how much light we’re going to shine into the darkness. Through the words we speak. Through forgiveness. Through how we engage with our neighbors. Through the way we empathize with those who have lost in unimaginable ways. Through the way we talk to our kids about all that’s going on. Through the way we support those in need. We get to decide how much goodness and beauty is shared throughout our homes, our cities, the world. Right now, wherever we are.

I pray we take with us the eternal lessons of 2020 and hold fast to the hope that is just around the corner.

— Chip

Eternal lessons of 2020 and hold fast to the hope. Sounds like the Apostle Paul could have written those words. I agree with Chip. We can all love more. We can all listen and learn more. I personally think that how I act in 2021 shows how I was affected by 2020.  I was going to post the following song in my end of the year post but decided to wait until it fit better. It does now. Again, I know this will not be many of your “cup of tea.” If you can’t stand the music mute it and watch as the words scroll across the page. Let’s Make Love Great Again.

 

#Satisfaction#Emptiness

Friday, July 31st, 2020

The late Swiss psychiatrist and author, Dr. Paul Tournier once wrote:

It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood.

I certainly can’t argue with that. Recent circumstances in our world of unrest should help us to see this is true. While there are bad eggs in all things, the underlying factor in many arguments or conflicts are founded in the simple desire to be heard. Sadly, rational conversation and dialogue goes by the board when ears get stopped up with anger, prejudice, unreasonable actions, and other sicknesses.

Many people are walking through life like zombies. I, for one, do not for one minute believe zombies are real, but the picture of people walking like they are in a fog or controlled by a foreign entity is real. They are empty and searching and looking for something, but tragically have no clue where to look.

My example in this week’s sermon is the woman at the well in John 4. Lost, confused, empty, shallow, and looking all over for answers, she finds her answers the only place possible. It is not a thing or an event. It is a Person, Jesus.  He promised her satisfaction for her empty soul. What also shines in this story is Jesus shows us how we should reach out to people.

Satisfaction for an Empty Soul is my title. John 4 is my Scripture. I will be making a very clear presentation of the need for salvation.  I have no clue who will be listening so I am praying there will be someone listening to realizes their emptiness and need for Jesus. So with that in mind I’d appreciate your prayers for two things: One, open hearts to hear and respond; and two, for me as I preach. I want to speak clearly and passionately.

#Security#Fear

Friday, July 17th, 2020

If there is one thing I am sure of these days is there is a lot of insecurity among people. We live in unsure times. What started out to be the year that would be (2020) has now become the year that “could have been” or depending upon your perspective, the year that “has become.”  The economy was firing on all cylinders when COVID-19 happened. That was usurped by the unrest, turbulence and violence following the death of George Floyd. Now we are back to the spike in COVID cases.  There is no question we live in an age of upheaval. The big “C” church is under attack. We speak up and we are called homophobic, bigoted, opinionated, etc. Stay silent then we are accused of bigotry, pride,  prejudice, and a lack of compassion. Many live in fear of the future. Truth be known: many live in fear of the present.

My sermon this Sunday is from what I would consider one of the most poignant passages in all of Scripture on the security we have in Christ. This is not a sermon on “once saved/always saved” vs “one can lose their salvation.” This is a sermon on the steadfastness of God’s character and love for His children.  I’m approaching Romans 8: 31-39 with three thoughts:

  1. God is for us
  2. God defends us
  3. God battles for us

Psalm 27:1 tells us, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” With that promise in mind, I hope to give clarity and strength for whatever may come. Not because we strive in our own strength, but because we KNOW and TRUST the One whom we can lean on.

Your prayers would be appreciated. And I’d love to welcome you to listen online at the church’s FB page or the church’s YouTube channel.  You can find more information at the church’s website

#OutoftheBlue#VictoryStory

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

“What is it with me?” I have to ask. This is the third book review in a row? This is the second that has to deal with cancer. You might be wondering the same thing. Is Bill trying to tell us something? Truthfully, not that I know of. Who knows what is going on inside my body…or yours for that matter.

While I was reading Dream Big by Bob Goff (my review is here) Bob told how he was asked to do a Preface for a book by Greg Murtha. So I pursued it a bit further since Bob told a little of Greg’s story and it sounded interesting. Greg wrote a book called Out of the Blue and finished it on June 19, 2017. He went “to the head of the line” on June 22, 2017.  This book is Greg’s story and life lessons learned during 5 years of chemotherapy and fighting through 75 chemo treatments.  This was literally one of those books I had trouble putting down.  I started reading it Saturday evening since I didn’t have to preach and had to pry it out of my hands to go to bed. Then as I tossed and turned I wondered if I should have just stayed up and read some more. I finished it Sunday night after attending church with friends, having lunch with them, and coming home to cut grass. The rest of my evening was spent putting the finishing touches on reading this book. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

Greg was a hard-driving and successful man, but by his own admission not a great husband or father. Provider? Yes. Engaged? No.  But here is how his journey began: “On a cold December morning in 2011, I ran eleven miles on the picturesque Crocket Hills Trail in Middle Tennessee…As a 46 year old man in what I thought was peak physical condition, eleven miles was nothing. Afterward, sweating but pumped, I headed for the bathroom at the YMCA. That’s when my runner’s high deflated. It appeared as if someone had poured a container of bright-red blood into the toilet. It was a lot of blood, and I realized instantly, this is not good.”

So begins his story of 5 years/75 treatments. And so begins one of the most captivating books you will ever read.  One month after that 11 mile run, Greg and Tracey (his wife) found out he had Aggressive Stage 3 colon cancer (I’ll leave out the details)  which soon became Stage 4.  Out of the blue his life was changed forever.  Out of the blue his well-planned life had been radically changed. Hence, now you know the reason for the title of the book.

And out of the blue I was slammed by the lessons Greg learned.  How often, even though I want to be a pastor who is tender and open to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, have I walked past people who are obviously hurting?  How many times have I been so preoccupied with my own issues or concerns that I have failed to see the signs of others who are needing someone to care?  How many times have I sensed that nudge from the Spirit to reach out and failed to do so? I can honestly say…way too many.  I shed tears during this book.  Not for Greg but for how his heart was made tender for others. How his heart was molded into a heart like Jesus.  And I shed tears because I am so lacking in that department. Like Joni, Greg says cancer was a blessing and he wouldn’t change a thing.  His biggest regret was leaving behind his wife of 23+ years and his 15 year old son.

Out of the blue God taught me how I needed to be much more open to others; how I needed to be much more sensitive to His voice and available to His lead.  I say “out of the blue” because I was not expecting this book to be what it was-a lesson in listening to God’s voice and acting upon it.  Greg’s journey on this earth is over, but then again, maybe it has just begun…in me. I pray my heart will be open to the Father’s leading as his was.

Get this book. But just be forewarned: you will be hit out of the blue with powerful lessons.

Out of the Blue: The Unexpected Adventure of Life Interrupted

#NeurosurgeonWisdom#BookReview

Friday, July 10th, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. It is the first Sunday since September that I have had off. We will be heading to Ohio for our grandson’s baseball game, coming back home Saturday and attending church elsewhere with some friends. So I thought I would take this spot, when I normally talk about my sermon, to do a book review. I welcome you to join me as I do that.

If you are like me, there have been times when doubts arise. Truthfully, I have never doubted who Jesus is. I have never doubted the divinity of Jesus or the truth that he was fully God and fully man. I have major issues with so-called Bible teachers like Bill Johnson, Todd White and others of that ilk who presume to know the deeper things and can’t even get it right that Jesus did not need to be born again. (And yes, BJ said he did. It’s on YouTube).  So, it isn’t the questions like the resurrection or the life of Jesus or even the miracles found in the Bible (Noah and the flood, for example, or Jonah and the big fish).

The doubt I’m talking about is the struggle between faith and doubt, the things we think we know that often cause the most trouble. The doubts which arise when prayers are not answered as we think they should be. The doubts that arise when we look around and see the injustice and war and slaughter of babies or the lives of young people or even young adults being taken away by cancer.

Those are the kinds of doubts W. Lee Warren, MD writes about in his new book I’ve Seen the End of You. What a phenomenal read!! Dr. Warren is a neurosurgeon (primarily brain) who is also an inventor (related to his brain surgery), an Iraq War veteran, and now a writer. He is also a blogger and a podcaster.  His first book, No Place to Hide -which I have not read but will- is about his Iraq experience, the PTSD which followed, as well as other fallout from that experience.  This book is about faith, doubt and the things we think we know.

I was captivated by it. When I first looked at it my thought was “What did I get myself into? He is going to be way above my head.” Not so. Dr. Warren’s style is what I will call conversational, filled with stories from his practice (primarily his work with Gioblastoma) and how his life was affected by his interaction with his patients. And just as he is dealing with the death of his patients (GBM has a 100% death rate), he loses his son. His faith is sorely tested. He asks a lot of questions; finds no easy answers; works his way through his emotions and feelings about God and life; and admits to his struggles-even to this day.  Dr Warren is real and transparent. I would love to meet him someday (but not for his specialty).

I can’t say enough about this book. You won’t find one negative comment from me. But you will find a rousing endorsement. I have already offered it to a nurse to read while on her vacation.  I had neck surgery back in 2010 (yeah it was from a bike wreck caused by a dog), and the neurosurgeon was a Christ-follower. I would give a copy of this book to him if I ever needed to see him again. (I just might anyway).  Please go out and buy this book. Read it first. Then give it to someone else to read.

 

By the way, there are some powerful quotes I might use at another time.  If  you read them you will find them too. 🙂

#Worry#Peace

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Its funny (not ha-ha funny) how things come together and you are not even aware of it at the beginning.  When I started mapping out this series called Promises, Promises I was oblivious to the dates. I just started brainstorming titles, found the Scriptures, and then started putting them into the order I wanted to preach them. Little did I know that this week’s sermon would fall on the July 4th weekend and be so applicable that it blows me away. It wasn’t until I had started working on the outline and objective statement (what I want to accomplish) that I realized it was the weekend we celebrate our Independence as a nation.

I could not have planned it any better than if I had pulled out the calendar and said, “This week is this sermon.”  FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”  MLK, Jr stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I have a dream” speech. His dream of racial harmony has not been fully realized (as we know), but progress has been made and we can pray it will continue.

But if there is one thing our world has plenty of is worry. One thing our world is missing in spades is peace.  I like what Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch Holocaust survivor) said:

Worry is an old man with bended head, carrying a load of feathers which he thinks are lead.

The enemy of peace is not war. It is worry. And that has a by-product: fear.  Peace is something Jesus has promised His followers: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:7) There is no question that peace is what we all would like to see. Truthfully, that will never happen (not until Jesus returns). But the Christ-follower has the promise of peace…the kind the world will never know or experience. I want to give those who listen or watch some of that reassurance we find in God’s Word.

I think it is a critical subject. I’d appreciate your prayers please.

#AShelter#RunforCover!

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Forest Gump was famous for saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Since I like love chocolate, I would agree.  But there are times when someone throws a curve and ruins the chocolate. All they have to do for me is to either put coconut or any nut but peanuts in it and they ruin it. I don’t have to say this because you know it from reality: we are thrown curves of every kind. The  end result is determined by what we do with them and how we handle them. 

I found some interesting quotes while I was studying for this sermon:

“Life is like an onion, which one peels crying.”

“When you are down and out, something always turns up-and it’s usually the noses of your friends.” Orson Welles

Here is one that made me chuckle: “Life’s a tough proposition, and the first hundred years are the hardest.” Wilson Mizner

Life and tough stuff go hand in hand. Let’s call them storms.  With all our high tech equipment we aren’t very often surprised by a storm anymore. Unless it is a tornado that comes while we are sleeping. In life, while we are not so much surprised by the storms because we know we are not exempt, we are often surprised by the intensity of them.  A more important question is this: where do you go when the storms hit?  Where do you hide? Where do you find cover?

The second sermon in my Promises, Promises series is called “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.” It is the first of two from Isaiah 40. This one covers verses 1-27.  In this day and age,  we all need a shelter. Not a monetary one. Not an abode.  Certainly more than an umbrella. We need a real shelter.  People are hurting. People are crying. People are living in fear. What better message than the one from God’s Word to give hope?

Your prayers would be appreciated. Thanks.

#Lent#26

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

I’m in Ohio the first part of this week helping our daughter, Janna, move into her apartment. So I’m “cheating” by using the same devotion here that I am using at my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

If there is one emotion which captures the mood of many, if not most, people these days, it is fear. It has no favorites. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Mansion-dweller. Homeless. Actor. Homemaker. CEO. Grunt worker. Christ-follower. Non-believer. F.E.A.R. It paralyzes. It haunts. It creeps.

I was reading a devotion recently on Psalms. I’m going to reprint it in its totality for you. I hope it blesses you and show why we have nothing to fear.

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam in 1942. During that time, the Nazis were arresting Jews and herding them off to concentration camps. As she awaited the inevitable arrest, and with the fear of the unknown (my note: sound familiar?), she began to read the Bible-and met Jesus. She simply put her hand in God’s hand and found rare courage and confidence.

Etty wrote in her diary: ‘From all sides our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed and no one at all will be able to come to our aid. but I don’t feel that I am in anybody’s clutches. I feel safe in God’s arms. And whether I am sitting at my beloved old desk in the Jewish district or in a labor camp under SS guards, I shall feel safe in God’s arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him, and all of life becomes one long stroll.’

Etty was a living, courageous picture of the psalmist’s declaration: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you…What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps.56:3-4). What a challenge for anyone plagued by fear!

As we sense the strength of God’s everlasting arms beneath us (Deut.33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence, holding the hand of our unseen Companion.    Devotion by Vernon Grounds

I wish every person on earth, whether a follower of Jesus or not, could grab a hold of that truth. It is especially viable for the follower of Jesus to have faith not fear. Praise not panic.  My prayer is that including this devotion might soothe your troubled soul (if you are anxious or troubled).  And by all means, pass this along!

Devotion (in blue) from Together With God: Psalms @2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries. 

#Lent#20

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

With all the talk about “the virus” I thought we needed a reminder that we are still alive and live on a planet made by God, the Creator of all things good.  I came to the office early this morning (Sunday) and about 7:40 I peeked outside. I saw this sunrise and took these pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say that is a pretty impressive display of God’s creative work wouldn’t you? 

Our service was live streamed on the church’s Facebook page.  I do not have the ability to post it here but if you would like you can go to the church’s website and click on OVCF Facebook Page. You can ask to join and either Diana or Tami will approve it. You can then watch it. I understand (and may be wrong since I am technologically-challenged illiterate) that you can watch it once you are a member of our page.

And remember there is always a sunrise with Jesus. In fact, it was real popular a number of years ago to say, “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming!” Good Friday looked bleak, but Resurrection Day changed it all.

***********************************

Shortly before they left on their spring break vacation one of the ladies in the church (my State Farm Agent) said she saw a shirt and it had my name written all over it. She gave it to me to wear and I told her I would wear it the first Sunday they were back. Today was that day and you obviously know the result of that.  It tells a great story for us and our times.  It is a lesson we must never forget.

Those are my words to all: DON’T. GIVE. UP!!