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#Broken#FindingStrength

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some books which you labor through; some you breeze through; some you savor like a fine pizza (fooled you didn’t I?); and some you read that you don’t want to put down and think, “I suspect somewhere along the line I will read that again. I most definitely will pass it along to someone else when the time is right.”

I found and read one of those books just recently:

Strength at the Broken Places: A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God's Grace

I am not sure where I heard about Greg’s book. It may have been a podcast. It may have been while reading another book. But wherever it was, I’m grateful. This book is subtitled A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God’s Grace.  It was that and more.

From the earliest memories of his childhood Greg’s life was broken. An unsettled parental relationship which eventually wound up in divorce. A mother who never really recovered from the divorce.  High school years which had both success and failure. The loss of his grandfather (Big Pa) deeply affected him. Then it was off to college and surprisingly for this “going nowhere young man” college became a much better experience. His grades were so bad in high school Greg started college on academic probation. But he found his niche. He found it even more when his relationship to Christ blossomed and he met Terri Lynn, who eventually became his wife.

It would be nice to say that Greg’s life was all peaches and cream after that. It was the exact opposite. Seminary. A doctorate.  Several different pastorates. Things began to fall apart though as he allowed his demons from his childhood (and other events) continue to haunt him.  A failed marriage. A failed job or two. Shame from his past. He is definitely one of those men who found his identity in his job.

Eventually, he found another wife who was committed to Christ.  I wish I could say that it was a “happily ever after” kind of life but it wasn’t. She even moved out when his “demons” came back. Ultimately though he sought help in the form of a Christian counselor and two mentors who helped him rise above the “demon” past. Today Greg is the pastor of Lost Pines Cowboy Church in Texas. God has used him, his past, and his present to help others and to make the future something to look forward to.

I highly recommend this book. It was readable but not fluffy. Greg painted himself warts and all. Everyone can benefit from reading this book and then passing it along. I plan to do just that whenever I find someone who could really benefit from his experiences.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if there was a grading system.

#BadtoGood#God’sProtection

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Every week I write a Midweek Message to the folks here at OVCF and Diana emails it on Wednesday. I started writing it when Covid hit as a way to stay in touch during the week. I have fun with it, but also try to keep the folks informed about comings and goings and happenings around the church fellowship. This week (tomorrow/Wednesday) the following will be included in the MM. You ought to feel really important since you will get to see it before the church folks do. I don’t have to worry about the cat being out of the bag too much since probably 90+% of the folks don’t read my blogs. 🙁  Anyway, here is what I wrote:

Have you ever had one of those “this could have been a very bad thing but it has turned out to be a good thing” events?  I had one this past Friday that still blows me away when I think about it. Every year I have my bike serviced by Bicycle Garage Indy in Greenwood. That is where I bought the last two and so I tend to be faithful to where I bought something. This past Friday I took my bike to Greenwood to have two new tires put on it and to have a tune-up so that it is safe and ready for the summer riding season. I had an early appointment with the intention of taking Jo to lunch and hanging around Greenwood for a couple of hours so I could take it home with me when it was done. We were sitting at lunch when the store manager called me with bad news. I thought he was going to say it needed more than tires and a tune-up. Nope. I needed a whole new frame. There was a crack on the inside of the frame down by the rear shifters and derailleur. There would have been no way I would have ever seen that until the frame busted and sent me spiraling or worse. The frame is under warranty but my size is a detriment, as has been COVID. Bike makers are so far behind that if I ordered a bike today, it would not be available until the end of 2022. Fortunately, Trek had some frames available for warranty claims and hopefully, will get it to them to build me a bike soon.

How could that be good given how much I like to ride? If that frame had failed while coming down a hill; if that frame had failed while on 43 (the state road I have to ride on before I find side roads) and cars coming up from behind me; if that frame had failed when I was all alone…well, I don’t even want to think about it. Jo says I told her after my last wreck (the one that broke my collarbone, three ribs, and split my helmet in three places) that if I had another wreck I was done. I think I was delusional and under the influence when she says I said that. 🙂  But the truth is I may very well have been done. I still shudder when I think about it. And I am immensely grateful to God for His watchful eye while I was riding and having me get it to the shop as soon as I did. I have always believed that God does not do evil or make His children suffer.  God’s goodness and protection overwhelm me.  {Note: I’m sorry honey. I’m not quite ready to retire the bike just yet. And I still think I was under the influence when you said I said that}. 🙂

Never forget God does not do evil to His children. Someone else is responsible for that.   With that simple truth in mind, why would anyone want to serve him?

#TrueWords#ConvictingWords

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

As my readers know, I am not on FaceBook or Twitter or Insta or any other social media. I have enough trouble keeping up two blogs and my daily work (plus spend time with Jo) to have to worry about social media and keeping up with the latest trends, wacky and whacked-out thoughts posted on modern media. I have no patience for ignorance espoused as “brain food” and definitely no stomach for liberal politics. Or maybe politics in general.

I recently read an interview with Carl Trueman, the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self  and a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.  He was being asked what books are on his nightstand these days. After answering the questions he said some profound words that I want to copy below for you to read and think about:

Question: What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

Life is short. Now in my mid-50s I am increasingly conscious that time is limited and that as a Christian I need to be very careful about my personal and professional priorities. Private time with family and close friends means so much to me these days. An evening in the company of loved ones is a precious gift that I have too seldom appreciated in the past. And professional time has to be focused on things that count: the classroom, reading things that matter, writing articles and books on topics of serious moment.

I am amazed at how many Christians spend their days on Twitter and Facebook—too often platforms for ephemeral trivia and unpleasantness. I do not believe Jesus wants me to use my remaining years in exchanging insults with other Christians. I think he wants all his people to witness to the world by using the time and talents he has given them to edify the body of Christ and to help the rising generation think clearly about the challenges we all face.

Well, now you know I am not alone in my thoughts. It feels good to have someone so intelligent say it so much better than I can.

#Vaxxer#Non-Vaxxer

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I read a blog written by James Emery White that I want to share with you. But before I do I want to say something. I will go on record as saying that I thought COVID was a passing thing. I will even admit to saying that as the election drew near that it was too politicized, that one side was using it as a weapon against another side. There was tons of misinformation floating around. I went 9 months avoiding the “plague” and it finally caught up with me on December 21 when I tested positive. But it wasn’t done. After an incident on Christmas morning (which I will defer on telling you), I literally went from 223 pretty solid pounds honed on a bicycle and weights at the Y, and in three weeks I was looking straight in the mirror at a 175 pound refugee body.  It had attacked my digestive system, ruining my ability to keep food in or down. After a long and eventful 3-4 weeks which included several surgeries, I am on the mend. I am riding by bike again and working out at the Y.

On April 19th Jo and I get our second vaccine.

I worked out. I took tons of immune support vitamins. I exercised. I thought I was “bullet proof” with all that I did. But I still got COVID, worse than anyone in my personal space. Even Jo who has compromised health (diabetes) did not experience what I did.

To be honest, I still didn’t want to take the vaccine. I was concerned about being kicked backwards by it. I also thought since I had COVID I thought, “I’m good.” But then I started thinking about the example I am setting. I thought about how the folks will feel more comfortable around me knowing I am vaccinated.  So I chose to get the Moderna vaccine. Time will tell its end results.

But I know there is a lot of misinformation still floating around…about the vaccine…about COVID. So I am simply asking you to read James Emery White’s blog about the vaccine. Click here to read.

Maybe it will help you make a decision.

#Worry#Don’t!

Friday, April 9th, 2021

If I were to do a random walk through a town or a mall and asked what one thing amped up during the recent pandemic, I suspect worry would be the list.  Maybe even tops.

Worry is not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. White or black or any other color. Rich or poor.  Living in a mansion or homeless.  Good job or no job. Married or single. Male or female.  White collar or blue collar.

There are three weeks left in the series on Ecclesiastes. I took a 4 week break for Easter so I could preach on the cross and the Resurrection. Ecclesiastes 11 is all about putting worry to bed.  Well…it doesn’t say that specifically but it does talk a whole lot about accepting life as it is.  The adage of AA is “Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change; to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  We are all faced with the issue of “Do I or do I not worry?”

Philippians 4: 6-7  says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Wise counsel. I’m going to open my sermon Sunday by using Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 to see what He has to say about worry. Then I’m taking Eccl. 11 and taking verses 1-6 to show what we shouldn’t worry about and verses 7-10 to show what we can be happy about.

Join me/us if you have a chance to do so. I would be honored. If not, then please pray. Thanks.

#NeverTooLate#Song

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I was on my way to the office this morning (Thursday) and was listening to Kutless. I have been listening to them lately and I’m sure I heard this song but never paid much attention.

Until this morning.

I realized how pertinent it was given the meaning of this whole week. The day we honor tomorrow (Good Friday). The day we celebrate on Sunday (Resurrection).

And the ache we have in our hearts for those we know and/or love who have continued to push Jesus away.  I know I do.  I offer this to you to be encouraged to not stop praying and hoping. It is never too late until that last breath is breathed. Until then…

Here is the song.

#Sensible#Wise

Friday, March 5th, 2021

It is possible to live our entire lives from the wrong perspective. Believing we are right, we can be wrong. A perfect example of that is the man or woman who says he/she is an atheist. Bad choice! Or how about the one who chooses a lifestyle or belief system which is contrary to the Biblical one? Believing they are right will not get them into heaven. Thinking we are hitting the target most definitely does not guarantee us a bullseye.

In preparation for this week’s sermon, I ran across an old illustration which comes from American Indian lore. An Indian brave found an egg that had been laid by an eagle. Not being able to return the egg to an eagle’s nest, the next best thing to do was to put it in the nest of a prairie chicken. The hen sat on the egg, along with her own, and it eventually hatched.  The story continues…

All his life, the changeling eagle, thinking he was a prairie chicken, did what the prairie chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled. And he flew in a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground.

Years passed. And the changeling eagle grew very old. One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.

“What a beautiful bird!” said the…eagle to his neighbor. “What is it?”

“That’s an eagle-the chief of the birds,” said the neighbor clucked. “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.” 

So the changeling eagle never gave it another thought. And it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.

And we would say what a tragedy!  Designed to soar into the heavens, plunge to earth or water to get its food, and once again to soar majestically, this eagle settled for grubbing worms and seeds from dirt.

Is that any different than the jumble of humanity who sell their souls for temporary pleasure? There is sometimes a fine line between a wise person and a fool. This Sunday’s sermon is entitled Be Sensible-Be Wise from Ecclesiastes 10. I’ll be probing what it means to be both this week. I hope you will join me either in person or online.  And as I always ask, either way or if you can’t, I would appreciate your prayers.

#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!