June, 2020

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#MyChallenge

Monday, June 29th, 2020

My sermon yesterday was on God. How He promises the impossible and does the incredible.  I used several Scriptures during the message.

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard from You!” Jer.32:17

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jer.32:27  (Rhetorical question from God)

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Gabriel’s words to Mary in Luke 1:37

“What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  Jesus’ words to the crowd in Luke 18:27

David and Goliath. (Was a little boy really supposed to even have a chance against a veteran soldier who was also a giant?)  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace. Daniel in the lion’s den.  Moses parting the Red Sea. God was a God of miracles, One who did things way beyond what could be imagined.

He made the promise: “Nothing is too hard for me.” He kept it. He still does.  My challenge to the folks yesterday and to me was to trust God with what seems to be impossible situations. He promised He would come through. His track record is impeccable. 

Join me. Won’t you?

#EmptyTank?#FreshSupply

Friday, June 26th, 2020

It was the summer of 1983. We were living in Indiana pastoring a church that was as legalistic as the day is long. I was dying and after 4 months told Jo we needed to get out of there. (It would be another year before that happened…all in God’s good timing).  At the encouragement of some from the church, our family went camping at a family camp in Ohio.

First time camping.

Last time camping.

A storm came through the last day (Thursday) and soaked all our stuff. So we packed up the next day to head home when I looked at the gas gauge and it was 1/2 full.  Doesn’t sound bad except we barely had enough money for a breakfast drive-thru for the kids and faced a 4-5 hour drive home. Poor planning on my part for sure. So I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed. H.A.R.D. Miraculously we arrived home and the gas gauge HAD NOT MOVED.  Trust me when I say that loaded down Chevy Citation wasn’t that good on gas! When we got home we knew we would need to buy groceries. I got paid Sunday. It was Friday.  I went to the mailbox and there was a check for $75 from a friend who was a pastor at a church in Ohio. I had spoken at the church’s men’s breakfast in December and he just then realized I had not been paid. I didn’t expect to be.  Remember: this is July. God came through!

How easy it is to forget God’s goodness.  Sometimes we come to the end of our road and rope. We have nothing left. Our tank is empty. We are barely hanging on. For pastors and leaders they call it burnout.  Some might use the words “I’m fried.”  This COVID thing has put a lot of people on edge or on the edge of emotional turmoil. I’d like to draw your attention to the God who promises the impossible and does the incredible.  Oops, now I’ve just gone and given you my two main thoughts for Sunday’s sermon. But you can still listen to see how they are fleshed out! 🙂

My sermon Sunday is from John 6:1-14, the feeding of the 5000. I’m calling it Supply for an Empty Tank.  If you are unable to be there you can check it out on the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.  If neither appeals to you (shame on you! LOL) then please say a prayer for me. I do appreciate those.

#Where’sBill?#GreatDisappearningAct

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

I’ve been largely absent from this blog this week. Okay…I haven’t been here at all, except to tell myself I ought to post something. I could shoot you all kinds of excuses but you might think I’m just blowing smoke. I don’t smoke so it can’t be that.  It’s just plain being busy.

Ryan is out of the office this week. I told him several weeks ago I expected him to find a week where he, Hope and the kids can get away. No office. No media (although I have no control over his phone use).  He has been working hard through this whole COVID thing trying to stay in touch with the kids. Lots of ZOOM meetings with them. Studying to make their time productive.  He even had an early Sunday morning time with the elementary kids! They sang; they danced (the kids did); he taught them and they loved it. He did too. But then he would rush to the church building and be one of the 4 who were here-Jo (Power Point); Tami (recording for FB); Ryan (sound and recording); and me (preaching…I think).  He took on the added responsibility of helping get our fledgling recording of the worship started and moving. He also had two weeks of Wilderness Week at our church camp cancelled (they cancelled the whole summer). So along with some frustration was some sadness.  He was tired and wore out.  So they went camping.

Today is his and Hope’s anniversary (#15 I think) and they decided to spend it together backpacking. Not to worry. They spent their honeymoon camping as they traveled cross country.  I affiliate with strange people you know? 🙂 In all honesty, there is no underestimating his value to the team. I am so grateful that he left a secure bank job to become our youth pastor. The dude knows how to minister. 

My week has been full with appointments, one that went way past my normal bedtime.  Yesterday I spent time visiting some folks who would love to be there on Sunday but are being cautious because of underlying health issues.  It was a fun afternoon. But when I do those things it takes me out of the office.

So…out of office…no blog. I know, I know. Makes you sadder than all get out. I love my job. I prefer to call it my calling. I love seeing people. It has been a good week.  I look forward to tomorrow except for the doctor’s visit at 7 a.m. which is a follow-up to lab work from last Friday. But I get to spend the day with Jo! That’s always good.

Hope your week was good. Anything you can share about it that will put a smile to my face?

#Strength#WearyDays#BiggerGod

Friday, June 19th, 2020

I’m sure you have heard the American prayer. In fact, I suspect you have probably prayed it as have I. That prayer is simple:

Lord, give me patience…and give it to me now!

As I write this post, and as I prepare to preach on Sunday morning, I am a poster child for this prayer. It is far more common than I (and possibly you) would be willing to admit. Patience is not a virtue of many most Americans. We want it and we want it now. Case in point: the recent COVID shutdown. The first week or so we were patient and sort of reveled in the change. But as it went on longer we saw signs of impatience creep into our lives. Many who said, “No way will I go out” began to stretch the boundaries. 

We see this “I want it now” mentality in newlyweds.  They don’t want to wait to get things they grew up with. Without even realizing it they want what their parents had and spent years planning and saving for. We end up in debt up to our eyeballs because of our impatience.

Following God is no different. We want answers…NOW. We want God’s direction…NOW. When truthfully, waiting is the last thing we want to do. But oftentimes we are called on to wait. Sunday’s Scripture is most definitely one of the key passages about that: “Those who wait on the Lord…”

Sunday’s sermon is the second part of Isaiah 40 that began last week. This week is from Isaiah 40: 28-31: “Strength for Weary Days.” Thanks for your prayers for me and the church as we meet.

 

#47

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

I was in the flower shop yesterday (that is a surprise all its own) when someone asked me how many years of marriage we are celebrating. I said, “47.” She said “Wow! Good for you! We are celebrating 33. We started late.”  People have a hard time believing we are celebrating 47 years because I look no older than 50.  I can see the wheels in their head turning ’round and ’round as they try to do the math. 🙂  So I save them the brain drain and tell them I am really 67, my bride is 69 and we were married while in college.

I met Jo when we were Freshmen in college. She had stayed out a year to work and not study. She had her roommates who became friends; I had complex mates who became friends. Lo, and behold, my friends hung with hers and we became friends.  We did really stupid stuff back then (like crawling through bat guano when we were crawling through caves) but we were young and adventurous.  She really didn’t like me when we first met. Said I was arrogant. Who me? Just because I was a starting Freshman on the basketball team? I didn’t think I was then…but I guess I was. Eventually, my charm won her over and we went out on a date. We went to another town to see the movie Love Story and man was it quiet in the car. She didn’t talk much. I thought she didn’t want to be with me and actually wished she was out with another guy. Come to find out she was sort of shy and didn’t really talk all that much. Oh…how times have changed! But I digress.

Eventually our sophomore year we started dating and except for a break-up by her (twice)  we have been together since.  Our original date to get married was August 18 but the school (where I was working for the summer) threw us a curve ball so we had to move the date to June 16th against the wishes of both our parents. It was either that or be unemployed two weeks from the end of school. We had all our invitations printed when the school told me I didn’t have a job since I would be single and they weren’t hiring single people that summer. So we scrambled to put together a wedding in less than 2 months. She said we could put a notice in the invitations that said “due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to move the date of the wedding.” I said, “I don’t think that would be the best thing to say.” 🙂 She agreed. Anyway, we got married. I had to have my parent’s permission since Ohio required the parties be 21. My father-in-law never let me live that one down.

Wives of ministerial students were tuition-free so that was one reason we didn’t wait until after graduation.  We lived in a too small trailer (I broke every light fixture as I walked through it)  that was moved and the add-on was not even connected to the trailer. We could see ground in the Spring, Summer and Fall and snow in the winter! And that add-on was our bedroom! We were poor college students but that trailer was our home. We loved each other deeply and still do to this day. We have had our tough times like all marriages do. I was way too married to my job. Tragically, I found a lot of my identity there.  On June 3,1975 Tami came along and at one time wondered why she was not in our wedding pictures. 🙂 On August 23, 1979 Janna was born. They were to the two best events that ever happened to me (other than Jo).  Janna gave us Braden on October 17, 2006. That was the next best thing, although I didn’t have anything to do with that!

My life has been full. It has been an adventure (My personal motto is “Live the Adventure”) and I have God to thank for that. He has been involved in my life since I was a child; personally when I came to know Him at the ripe old age of 8; and He has led me through the highs and lows. Jo has been one of the highs and I am forever grateful God brought us together. Life is much different these days. She is retired and prefers to spend her days either at home watching TV or relaxing, or driving all over creation.  If she had her druthers we would live a whole lot closer to Janna and Braden, but she never balked at where we lived and loves the people here in Spencer. Tami lives here in Spencer and teaches in Bloomington. We have found our most satisfying ministry here, and she has been allowed to be herself. I still work full-time as the pastor of people I deeply love.

We found out in the middle of last week that Braden plays his first baseball game tonight (Tuesday) so since I was already planning on taking the day off I surprised her by suggesting we go and watch him play ball, spend the night in Ohio, take him to breakfast (IHOP) and then head home. Yeah, I had to twist her arm for that one. So we head off shortly for what we hope will be a delightful drive and time with Janna and Braden. He is the light of both our lives and keeps us laughing. We want to take advantage of that before he sees his grandparents as too old to be bothered with or acknowledged.

So…thank you love (I call her Honey) for 47 years. My prayer is that we will be see that magical number of 50 together. Sorry this is so long, but I was writing about someone I love. Oh…I could have gone on for much longer.  But I’ll spare you for now. 🙂

#Monday#StartoffRight!

Monday, June 15th, 2020

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” is what the Carpenters sang back in the Dark Ages.  That’s circa early 1970s for you young ones. 🙂

Monday often sets the pace for the rest of the week.  It is “Back to work” time.  The attitude we have will set the tone for our day and our week.  Our Worship Team led us in worship this past Sunday with the following song. I’m not going to say much more about it.  The first time I heard it I was driving and Jo put her phone on YouTube and we listened to it in my truck. I was blown away by the sound and the lyrics.  I am starting your week off with that song. I guarantee that once you hear it, it will stay with you.

Here is the song.

#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.

#AllLivesMatter#NoMatterWho

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

#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.