January, 2021

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#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?

#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.

#CustomerService#GoodorBad?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I’m going to blow off a little bit of steam. I will do it nicely and will not even mention the firm’s name since I do not want to cause heartache for the person if for some reason it was to get out. Here is what happened:

There has been an error in my billing from this certain company for close to a year now. When I realized it, I contacted their CS department to try to straighten it out.  She told me they couldn’t do anything about it. Now get this: it was their customer service rep’s fault. They put the service charge on the wrong phone. When we bought Jo a new phone in February, we put a line on her phone for her sister to use in the nursing home. Long story short: she doesn’t even know where the phone is (and probably hasn’t even looked), so I wanted to drop that line and save a line use charge of $25/month.  That sounds good until you look closer and see that the rep put the charges for Jo’s new phone on that line! So I tried to have them drop the charge and make the change. No go.

So I went to the local store rep to see what could be done. She (the store manager) listened and sent a request for a customer acceleration. After going back and forth I also told her I was due (way overdue since I still use an iPhone 5)  for a new phone and if they couldn’t straighten out their own CSR’s mistake why would I consider getting a new one?  Anyway, after several back and forths she told me she could fix it for me. When would be a good time to come in? I told her I was in jail, I mean quarantine for ‘rona so it would need to wait.  After several tries, we set up yesterday, Tuesday, at 1:00.  I get there at 12:45 and find out she stepped out for a few minutes to go check on her dog but she would be back in time. He asked my name and it should have been my first clue when my name was not on the list. So Jo and I waited…and waited…and waited.  Very patiently I might add. At 1:20 we left. I have yet to hear from her.

I hope you won’t take this wrong but I began thinking about the church and each individual person. As a church we are representatives of Jesus. But we are also representatives of our church family. When people walk into our church building (or see us online) how are they treated? Are we kind? Engaging? Welcoming? Did they find us real or planted there with fake, plastic smiles?

My feelings about this company were not enhanced by the discourse over the past two months, and most definitely by yesterday’s failed connection.  I’m hard-pressed to still consider this company as a carrier for my new phone.  Let’s not make the same mistake with our churches. The solution is us. Not “let someone else take care of it.” You be the rep!!

#GreatDay!#PraiseSong

Monday, January 11th, 2021

As many of you know I have have Covid since before Christmas. I tested the Monday before (the 21st) and received a positive call on the 23rd. I stayed in jail, I mean quarantine, until Monday, the 4th, even though I was done on December 30th. Just wanted to be safe. It sapped all my strength. I slept more in one night than I think I had the previous year.  (Yeah…slight exaggeration but it sure felt like it).  Anyway, there are some symptoms that have “hung on” that have made life a bit uncomfortable at times. But Saturday I had had enough. I put my bike on my inside trainer and rode for 30 minutes. I think for the first time in weeks I felt alive.

It was during that ride that I ran across a song which literally rocked me. I was about 20 minutes into the ride when a song came on my Spotify playlist, one I had never heard before.  As I rode my bike tears flowed and my hands were raised to the Father in absolute wonder and praise. I though I would start your week off with a good song to fill your heart and mind with. Enjoy!

And here is the song:

#Wisdom#Pleasure#Empty

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

I’m guessing he is not too far from the truth.

In the 80s, the rock group Foreigner had a song that haunted many and if given to reality and truth, still does. The song’s big refrain was “I want to know what love is/I want you to show me.” I’m pretty certain the writer of Ecclesiastes never heard of Foreigner, but that song has every human being’s name on it. You see, no matter who we are; no matter how old we are; no matter our language, time or place; we all want to know what love is and that we are.

My sermon Sunday is the second installment on my two month series on Ecclesiastes. In Eccl. 1:12-2:11 Solomon shows the emptiness of chasing wisdom and pleasure.  We will be virtual again this week due to our desire to keep our people safe, and even though our governor has said nothing about churches, our County is in the Red which is 25 or less in one place. Given the strike of Covid on our congregation, that may be a stretch to even reach that. But we are playing it safe.  I’d love to have you join me online at 10:45 at the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.

I found the perfect song for this week and I’m guaranteeing it will surprise you. Check it out here

#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.

 

#SameOldSameOld

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

I often heard a quote in the past so I decided to look up its origin. Seems like it is credited to Edmund Burke and a Spanish philospher, George Santayana (no that is not Santana). Winston Churchill changed it somewhat in his 1948 speech before the British Commons. The essence of that quote-even though its wording has been changed somewhat is this: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”  I suspect most of us would agree with that statement. How many times have we been admonished on a personal level to “learn from your mistakes?”

In 2008 the Penn State University football team was embroiled in a public scandal of the conduct of its players. Former Lion, Matt Millen, in an attempt to put it in its biblical context said, “If people out there are thinking that this is new, let me just give you a little bit of Scripture. Ecclesiastes. Nothing is done what hasn’t been done before.”

As I read and reread Ecclesiastes I can’t miss that lesson. Nor this one: satisfaction is not found in things we can taste, touch, or feel, things we can experience. Satisfaction is found in only one place: a life surrendered to Jesus Christ.

My study for the next two months will be on this somewhat obscure book found following Proverbs in the OT.  We will learn through studying Ecclesiastes that everything is vanity and whatever we think we have here on earth will amount to nothing in the end. Join me please for the next two months as we study this intriguing book on Sunday mornings.  Due to the influx of the China virus in our congregation (by those who attend and those who have stayed home), we will be virtual at least one more week…possibly a couple more until we are sure it is under control. If you go to the church’s website you will find the links to both the church’s FB page and YouTube link. If you can’t join us, please pray for us.