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#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!!

#Supremacy#Colossians

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

It never ceases to amaze me how contemporary the letters that Paul wrote are to today’s culture. Case in point: Colossians.  I am beginning a new series this Sunday on the book of Colossians with the title of Supremacy.

Many churches have glorious pasts and they like to live there…forever. You can hear it in statements like “We never did it that way before” which someone has dubbed as The 7 Last Words of the Church. Then there are those churches who revel in their past and want to spend an ungodly amount of money keeping their buildings update, their stained glass windows looking all nice and spiffy and regularly use Murphy’s oil soap to shine and wax their pews. Then, of course, there are those who celebrate milestones by putting people’s names on buildings, pews, and even offering plates.

I’m not trying to be difficult but I sure think a church should have another focus than just the looks of their building. If celebrating the past gives us a heightened awareness of the future, I’m all for it.

In this opening passage of Scripture (Col.1:1-8)  Paul gives us a reason to celebrate in the church. I’ll give you a hint: it has something to do with faith, hope and love. 🙂

Your prayers would be appreciated this Sunday. Thanks.

#Quote#Darkness

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Quite honestly I have never been one to listen to sermons or podcasts while I drive. I don’t know if you would say I am a typical male or whether it is just me, but I have trouble doing two things at one time.  Even reading more than one book at a time is hard, especially if I find one of them more interesting than the other. So I tend to be a “one-tasker” (as opposed to multi-tasker).  Driving and listening to a sermon is not on my radar for obvious reasons. Hint: you have to think while listening.

But lately I have found a couple podcasts I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to. One is Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership podcast, as well as Craig Groeschel’s. Another is Hole in my Heart with Laurie Krieg. Her husband, Matt, and friend, Steve, often join her. I have personally met Matt & Laurie and had them as our weekend guests here at OVCF. Laurie has what she calls “broken sexuality” (Same Sex Attraction). But her podcast has not focused on that alone. She did have one guest whom I really enjoyed listening to concerning his SSA but also his conversion to Christ. A recent guest, Sheridan Voysey, talked about the struggle he and his wife had with infertility.  It was during a “side road” Laurie took Sheridan on that he said something I wrote down (after I got back to the office).

This very darkness you are going through and your waiting and hungering and hoping for that new birth or rebirth, God can be doing things under the surface without you even realizing it, which is all part of Him making you who He called you to be.

I sent that to someone I know who is going through a really tough time right now. Short thought: nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy. His plan is sometimes curvy; sometimes uncomfortable; sometimes painful; but always with purpose.

I leave this quote with you for your perusal. If you care to comment, I’d love to hear what you think.