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#TheHole#Emptiness#Life

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Augustine is credited with saying, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in you.” (Edited by me since the original was in King James English).  Just take a look around and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize his statement is true. Solomon has shown us over and over in Ecclesiastes that those things which we pursue will never satisfy. But just when you think he might be done, Solomon moves on to another empty pursuit. This week he will cover riches and honor.

Have you ever researched lottery winners? While there are some success stories of people who stayed humble and are still living in their modest home and living a modest lifestyle, or got a financial advisor to handle their finances,  there are also those who splurged on a new home and new toys and then lost it all to bankruptcy and divorce or in trouble with the law. They would be perfect examples of Solomon’s conclusion: all is empty.

My sermon this Sunday is from Eccl.5:8-6:12. I’ve titled it The Hole because that seems to me what Solomon is saying. But all is not lost! Just as Solomon talks about The Hole we can find ourselves in by chasing after empty things, we can also have the hole filled.  William Butler Yeats once said, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Translated into Grandi language that says: “When things fall apart (as they will), nothing can hold life together.” I would disagree with Mr. Yeats because of the ONE who holds all of life together.  To help me make my point I’m going to share the story of Becket Cook, which comes from his book, Change of Affection. Becket was a practicing gay man who had an encounter with Christ and even though he had the world and all its “things,” he gave it up to follow Jesus. It is a thrilling story.

I’m recovering from gall bladder and hernia surgery as many of you know.  Ryan has a copy of my sermon just in case I can’t go, but Lord willing, I will be preaching this Sunday. I’d appreciate your prayers for health and a solid communication of the truth…by me or Ryan. Thanks.

#ImportantDay#DayofReflection

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Today is an important day for several reasons: one personal and one spiritual.

The spiritual first. Today, February 17th, is the beginning of Lent, or Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days before the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. This year that will be April 4th. I must confess to you that growing up in the church tradition I belonged to we did not observe Lent. I was so naive about it that I almost went up to a teacher who had a dark spot in the middle of his forehead and told him he had dirt there. 🙂 I had no clue! I also know some of my friends would talk about giving up something for Lent. Again, I had no clue.  My teacher was Catholic, as were my friends, and I now know that was a significant aspect of their belief system.  It had to be only 15 or so years ago that I really gave any notice to Lent. I heard some folks talking and decided it would behoove me to know more. For several years I decided to give it a go so one year I gave up caffeine pop. Another year I gave up beef (which wasn’t really hard since I didn’t eat it much anyway). One year I gave up all pop and drank only water. Then I finally figured out it really wasn’t about giving up something; it was really about surrender.

In his book, Journey to the Cross, a 40 day devotional to be used during Lent, Paul David Tripp writes: “It is right and beneficial to take a season of the year to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of our hearts clarified once again. Lent is such a season. As we approach Holy Week, where we remember the sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection of our Savior, it’s good to give ourselves to humble and thankful mourning. Lent is about remembering the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior. Lent is about confessing our ongoing battle with sin…And Lent is about giving ourselves in a more focused way to prayer, crying out for help that we desperately need from the only One who is able to give it.” (Pages 8-9)

I no longer use Lent to give up something physical. I try to use it to do just what Tripp says: “to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of my heart clarified once again.”  May I challenge you to do the same? I have been reading his book in preparation for my sermons on the cross and the resurrection. I’m actually on Day 17…and no I didn’t plan it that way. Perhaps you might even consider getting a copy of his book to help guide you.

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On a more personal note: this day has some significance. Many of you know of my struggles physically since testing positive for Covid on December 21. I will spare you the ugly details. Let’s just suffice it to say I lost between 40-50 pounds in less than a month. After multiple tests they have narrowed it down to gall stones which lodged in my bile duct which caused my physical issues. After having them removed, it was highly recommended that I have my gall bladder removed. My words: I have a gravel pit in there.  Oddly enough, I NEVER had a moment of pain. However much I hated getting Covid, it actually alerted my doctors (and me) to the potential for a great amount of pain and the possibility of infection which could have caused serious issues down the road. So I am having my gall bladder removed today. I guess that gives new meaning to Lent being a time of giving up something?  🙂  By the time many (most) of you read this my surgery will probably be over. I am hoping for the laparoscopy so I can come home today. All I ask is that whenever you read this you do say a prayer. I would like to recover as quickly as possible. On the bright side: we were “blessed” with 8-9 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday morning so I can’t be outside riding my bike anyway.  But I have been riding inside and am praying for a good answer to my question: when can I start riding inside again? I’ll keep you posted on how things went. Meanwhile, I do ask for your prayers. For more on this whole process and how I am “seeing” it, please check out my other blog here.

#SpeakUpandOut#ItisTime

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As the title suggests, it is time to speak up and out. I have rued speaking about politics on purpose.  In the long run, it serves no purpose. Talking heads will want to believe what they want to believe. My wife has asked me on several occasions, “Can’t people see that what he is doing is ruining our country?” I nodded in the affirmative to her thoughts about the country but then simply replied, “Nope they can’t because they don’t want to. Big tech and the liberal media only tell people what they themselves believe or what they want people to hear.” We saw that since the first impeachment (farce) of a trial and we saw it the whole 10 months leading up to the election.  (And please don’t get me started on that).

But I have another “bone” to pick. All this talk of science during the whole pandemic as though science was the end all. Science had/has all the answers.  “Science says this or science says that.” If science is so right on that subject, why is science so wrong on another subject?  Cases in point:

The current administration has signed into law that transgender males may participate in female sports. Science says that gives the males an unfair advantage because of the testosterone which is running through their body. But we suddenly push science aside for the sake of political “woke-sim.”  Can I say how much I despise that word “woke”?  Even athletes like Martina Navratilova, a known and out-spoken lesbian,  has gone on public record that it is a bad thing. “It gives the transgender athlete an unfair advantage,” she says. Oh, she took some heat on that one for sure. She isn’t alone. Even Billie Jean King spoke out.  And many others.  It is unfair that woman/high school/college athletes will be punished by the travesty of allowing males to compete as females. So we kick science to the curb for the sake of being PC (a word we no longer need to use since we have “woke”).  Have I told you much I despise that word?  🙂  Oh, and if you think this is not backed by big money then take a gander at this articleThat ought to chill you to the core.

Another “Kick science to the curb” scenario is the recent vote to allow babies who survive abortion not to receive medical help, i.e. just let them die. The fact that they are breathing even science will admit means they are alive.  How can babies be denied life-saving means, especially when a botched abortion was meant to take their life to start with? I am beyond stumped with that. And I am beyond livid when it comes to abortion and now this?  I submit to you there will be some lawmakers who will cringe when they stand before the Judge of all and have to give an account for their actions.  I seem to remember Someone saying we “need to become like children to see the kingdom of heaven” and “it would be better if a millstone were tied around our neck rather than cause one of the little ones to stumble.”  Of course, I suspect many or most of them don’t care what God thinks. And for a supposed pastor to vote for letting them die? I do not want to be in his shoes on Judgment Day.

I have other thoughts but will keep them to myself.  🙂  I will also now climb down off my soapbox and be on my way.  I ranted long enough.  Oh…by the way…these are not political issues; they are moral issues. On those I will speak.

#Pitfalls#Platforms

Friday, February 5th, 2021

I think I speak for all of us when I say this: it would be nice if, as we go through life, that things would hum on all cylinders. But you know as well as I do that is just not feasible. Life has its roadblocks, side roads we are forced to take, and landmines waiting for us to step on. But on the flip side life is also filled with incredible opportunities and experiences and adventures just waiting for us to take part in!  As I see it we can choose whether to fall victim to the pitfalls of life or we can use the platforms to rise.

To do that we need to adjust our thinking. When I was an Associate/Youth Pastor right out of college, the church I was on staff with needed to do some renovating and expanding.  I was young and naive and so I just assumed the folks with the money would be the ones who would buy the bonds we were selling. We were to go to their house and explain the process and why we were doing this and ask them if they would like to buy a bond of a certain amount to invest in the future of the church as well as their own. I’ll never forget what the company’s rep told us: “It is common to think the family with the big house, multiple cars and good jobs will buy the bonds. Think again. Most of their money is tied up and leveraged to the hilt. It will the grandparents, the moms and pops, the lonely widow, or someone who does not appear to have many earthly goods who will buy the bonds.”  He was so right. 

A change in thinking was in order. We find our thinking changing as we mature. We find it changing as we are confronted with reality.  We find it changing as we are facing life challenges.  Those changes will be either pitfalls or platforms. 

My sermon is from Eccl.3:16-4:16 this week.  I’d like to invite you to join me either in person or online. If you can do neither, prayer would be much appreciated!

#Update

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

I asked for prayer yesterday for my procedure. I’d like to give an update. The procedure went well. They were able to go in and get the renegade stones. No complications except for a sore mouth as a result of having a tube down my throat.  I functioned well the rest of day and went to bed at my normal time of 9:30ish. 

I woke up at 2:00 and decided after fighting getting back to sleep to get up. I don’t have any commitments today so if I want to sleep this afternoon I can. Why?

Because I have a wife and two staff people who ordered me to stay home.  The doctor’s orders was no driving for 24 hours but I think I can stay awake for 2 miles.  The real reason is I have bullies ordering me around.  🙂 🙂

The only caveat to all of this is the doctor said I need to have my gall bladder removed and the sooner the better. He did say I had a bladder full of gravel (my words). Once this happens I can count on it happening again and again. And I don’t want to go through this weight loss regimen again!!!!! So now I wait for a call from the scheduler and the surgeon to sink up.

All is well at this point. Thanks so much for your prayers. God’s got this and I trust His perfect hand. 

#TimeTravel#NoDeLorean

Friday, January 29th, 2021

There is an old saying, well at least where I come from, made up of 3 words: “Who’da thunk it?” In the middle of the raging 60s with riots and protests; flags and intimate apparel being burned; struggles over right and wrong-God wrote a pop song. Okay, not Him specifically, but one was written. Very few have probably heard the song unless they listen to oldies music. You have heard the song sung by the Byrds called Turn, Turn, Turn. All but six of the words of that song come directly from Ecclesiastes 3. And that is why the writer of that song, Pete Seeger, sends portions of his royalties to Israel. That song basically tells us that no matter how bad things get or are going to get, good times are coming.

I think all of us are aware of time. We wear watches to keep it readily available. We carry our phones for the clock (least some of us say that is why). 🙂 We live our lives based on the daily time frame of 24 hours. Even though Chicago asked people if they really know what time it was we live by the clock. Funny, now that I’m older and can discern some things better, I found out Robert Lamm (the writer of that song) was trying to stress the importance of taking time to appreciate the small pleasures in life instead of rushing from one place to another against the clock. That is certainly true. Not even Huey Lewis’ song Back in Time could give us what we really need: the right perspective of time.

My sermon this week is from that passage in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15 and I’m calling it Time Travel. I’m taking a rather simple approach this week: Time has no meaning without God and Time has meaning with God. I’d love for you to join us, either in person or by live stream. I’m looking forward to preaching this week. I’d appreciate your prayers for me, for us, this week.

#NeedaFather?#GoodOne

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Like many of you I am facing a week of uncertainty. Then again, isn’t every week like that? 🙂  After all none of us knows what the week will bring. Like the old saying/song goes (paraphrased): “I don’t know about the future but I know who holds it in His hands.”  You know…I’m sort of glad I don’t know. I mean, what would the adventure in living be if I knew what every step and every decision and every move I make was already known by me?

I grew up with a father, but I would not call him a good father. I loved my dad but as I got older I realized there was so much missing. As I have written here before, as long as I played baseball I was the “good son.” But when I switched to basketball and went after it with passion…well let’s just say from 9th grade to my Junior year in college (the last two games I ever played) my dad never once saw me play or expressed an interest in knowing how things were going. I guess I could include my mom in that but she had other things going on. Like 3 other boys besides me! And they were more high maintenance than me.  LOL (My brother Rob sometimes reads this and I just had to stick that in here for him. I love you Rob!).

As a pastor I have seen the devastation done to a family and to a son or daughter when the father is AWOL or MIA. Workaholism.  Affairs. Side roads of interest. Being home but not being home. Abuse. Bad fathers leave an ugly mark that could be seen almost immediately or maybe years later.

Yesterday (Sunday) I saw a loving and good father in action. (No, it wasn’t me silly). This past week Ryan, our youth pastor, has made 3 visits over 1/2 hour way to a vet because their 2 year old rescue dog has acted like he was in extreme pain. Finally, it got so bad he took him to a Vet ER in Greenwood (about 1 1/2 hours away) to be checked out At 2:00 Sunday morning, he had to make the decision to put him to sleep. The damage he was suffering was insurmountable and he would never recover with thousands of dollars of surgery. He asked my permission to stay home yesterday to be a daddy to his three children. Understand, he is our drummer. He is our youth pastor. He also helps make sure the live stream is running right if the correct people are not here. But he is also a father and husband. I told him to stay home. His first responsibility is not to the church but to be a husband and a father. That is being a good father.

I pray I was a good father. I think I was. I know I made mistakes. But I guess the fact that my two girls still speak to me and tell me they love me is proof?  So in honor of good fathers everywhere, I offer this song about the ultimate Good, Good Father. I hope it will help you start your week well.

#EmptyPursuit

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

There is probably not a person within the sound of my written voice who has not heard of or seen It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie where Jimmy Stewart plays the beloved but very confused George Bailey. George has dreams of “shaking the dust of this town of his feet and seeing the world.” Bedford Falls is not part of his dream. Therefore, the idea of living in a drafty old house, with little money, with one woman and a boatload of kids is not his idea of fun. He once told his dad, “I couldn’t stand being cooped up for the rest of my life in shabby little office. I want to do something big, something important.”  Then, of course, he apologized to his father for the putdown.

The story has resonated all these years  for several reasons, two of which are: 1) George assumes that if importance is to be gained in this life, he must travel to a patch of earth somewhere other than where he is to find it; and 2) he believes once he finds it he will become a satisfied and happy man.

My sermon this week is from Ecclesiastes 2: 18-26. I’ve given it the title of “Work, Eat, Drink, and What?” as I plan to show Solomon’s pursuits are only winding up to be a house of cards. His pursuit of wisdom and pleasure were dead ends. That is what he tells us. Now he is going tackle the other 3 “biggies.”

After last week’s side road and sermon on Life is Sacred, this almost seems somewhat anti-climatic. But this Scripture packs a powerful punch our society and we as Christ-followers need to hear.  As always, I would request your prayers for Sunday.  For the first time in 5 weeks I am planning on standing so physical stamina (as I recover from Covid) is needed. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

#Deeper#IWantTo#AnotherSong

Monday, January 18th, 2021

I’m back! It is another Monday and the start of another week. My week will look a tad different as I will be heading to the hospital for a procedure to find out why I am still having residuals from my bout with COVID. I’ll not share with you the details, but I can say it is something I have had every 3 years since I turned 53.  There…that ought to give you enough of a clue.  The start of my week will be anything but exciting, unless, of course, the news is less than stellar.  But I trust in God’s promises and in Him to know He has the intimate details of my life in the palm of His hand.

Yesterday afternoon I was riding my bike on my indoor trainer when I decided to switch gears (no not the bike’s) and listen to some different music. I usually put on Christian rock (yesterday was Skillet) while riding since I don’t have a TV in my Mancave.  I went way back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s and listened to a seminal Christian worship band that was more “rock flavored.” That doesn’t mean they screamed and shouted. It simply means they were a bit more upbeat than the Maranatha/Integrity-flavored fare of the day.  This band wrote and made popular songs like Do You Feel the Mountains Tremble and I Can Sing of Your Love Forever among others. One I always liked hit me where I am right now in my walk with Jesus. Sometimes there is just this hunger to know more and to know HIM more. To have a deeper walk and communion with Him. I think we all go through those times where we just can’t seem to get enough of Him. Then we plateau maybe. Then hopefully we find ourselves yearning for Him some more. I am in the “I want more” stage. I want to learn and read and study. I want God to have more of me.  I want Him to control more of me.  In essence, I want to go Deeper.

And that is the song which struck me as I rode. It is not “rocky” but it is most definitely upbeat. Maybe you need to hear this for your Monday and for the week ahead. Hope you enjoy it.  The song is Deeper by Delirious?

#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.