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#SoberCycle#Review

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

I can count on one hand the good things I think that have come out of the pandemic of the past close to 2 years.  One was the church implementing a live stream. That was most definitely good because it was very much needed. The other is podcasts, as in, I started listening to them. I have always said that I have trouble listening and driving. So I listened to music almost exclusively.  After I started listening to podcasts I had to change my tune. I figured out the reason why I could listen to them: they were not sermons.  Sermons are by nature one-sided so my mind wandered. Not so with most podcasts.  Honestly, I no longer listen to some of the podcasts I started with.  Some got too complicated. Some too business-oriented. Some too large-church oriented (I’m a pastor of a church in a small town so no relevancy there).

But one I have continued and consistently listened to is Bleeding Daylight hosted by Australian Rodney Olsen. I first “met” Rodney when we crossed paths while blogging.  We also had something in common: he was  a cyclist. Anyway, Rodney’s podcast is his interviews with various people who have overcome challenges and “kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.”  Like all interviews, some kept my rapt attention and some I lost interest in. One of the most recent featured a woman by the name of Sherry Hoppen from Hudsonville, MI.  Sherry’s story is one of addiction to alcohol.  It kept my attention from start to finish, not because I have an issue with it (I have never had a drink), but because I have some I know who do.  It was for them I listened; it was for them I was blessed.

Sherry has written a book chronicling her journey in a much more in-depth way than the podcast could do.

Sober Cycle: Pedaling Through Recovery One Day at a Time

I confess that I am hesitant to review or even suggest a “self-help” book.  Most of them are of the “your best life now” genre. I loathe that approach. Life is a challenge; life is tough, and no amount of self-talk will get you out off that treadmill. But Sherry’s book is much more than self-help. It is a memoir of sorts.  It is a revealing book. It is a brutally honest book.  Since I have never had an issue with alcohol, I do not totally understand its grasp on people. Sherry enlightened me as to the struggle addicts face. I wanted to simply say to her, “Well, then walk away. Don’t drink” but it wasn’t that easy.  And to my friends here, I now have a better idea of what they are going through.

I gave my copy to my friend. I now have another. I know another friend who has one waiting for him when he comes out of rehab.  I have to admit that I was impressed by Sherry’s battle, but I was totally impressed by her husband, Craig, who stood by her through it all. I know many husbands (and wives) who would have walked out and away at the first sign of addiction, let alone stay with her for years as she struggled.  Kudos to Craig!

I must also tell you that Sherry’s hobby is cycling.  Her first real effort at getting free from her addiction was a bike ride from Michigan to Maryland.  But her addiction was so bad she even started the ride with a hangover. I’m telling you folks, you need to read this book. For yourself. For your friends. For your alcoholic friend or relative.  And then pass it along.

Oh, one more thing. Sherry’s ministry is called She Surrenders because that is what it took for her to finally get free. Surrendering daily to the lordship of Jesus.  I can’t speak highly enough of Sherry’s book.  You can order from her website (https://www.shesurrenders.com/ or if you prefer, Amazon.

 

#ActionstoWords

Friday, November 19th, 2021

This Thursday we will celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Of all people, we who are Christ-followers must see and realize thanksgiving is much more than a national holiday where we get together with family and friends; eat gobs of food (way too much probably); park ourselves in front of a TV to watch a football game or two or three; and wile away the day as though it us just another day. In reality, it is just another day on a calendar, but it is a day which should remind us of something much greater: we have so much to be grateful for!

We do have much to be grateful for but we must also realize that gratitude is more than words; it also involves action. Words are useless unless they lead to sharing the gifts God has given us with others. One of the most firm statements of that truth is found in James 2. You know…that chapter that had Martin Luther thinking the book of James was a “book of straw.”

I will wrap up my 4 week series on Attitude Check this Sunday with a sermon I have titled “Putting Actions to Words.”  I will be using the 10 lepers as a lead in to gratitude but the bulk of the message will be looking at James 2: 14-26.

I invite you to join us this Sunday in person or online.  Next week I start a series around Christmas. (Go figure!) 🙂

#BlackHat#WhiteHat

Friday, November 12th, 2021

Well…this is embarrassing. As I looked at last week’s post about the sermon I used the information from the sermon but used the wrong title. It was supposed to be Pictures Don’t Lie but instead I used this week’s title. So…I apologize for the mix up. This week’s message is really entitled Black Hat/White Hat. 🙂

Many of you are old enough to remember when it was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. We used to say, “The good guys wore the white hats.”  If they didn’t wear them (literally) ya knew who the good guys were. Lone Ranger. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Wyatt Earp. Palladin. Even Perry Mason.  That, of course, was before the switch in culture began to call bad good and good bad, before we began to praise wrong and before the start of sequel #100 left us hanging at the end of the season or movie.

This Sunday I want to take this idea of the white hat/black hat and apply it to gratitude.  You see, we have this innate penchant for pushing the envelope, for seeing how close we can to the cliff without falling off. As we look at gratitude there are two sides to it.  My plan is to look at the dangers of ingratitude (black hat)  and compare them to the delights of gratitude (white hat).

Please join us if you are able. You can do that in person (9:00 and 10:45) or online (same time). I’d love to have you join us. If you watch online (we stream to the church’s FB page and YouTube), would you please do me a favor? Just let us know so I can see who watches. If you can’t join us for whatever reason (attending your own church is a good one), please pray for us. I would appreciate that a whole bunch.

If you watch online, you can go to the church’s website for the links.

#Gratitude#PicturesDon’tLie

Friday, November 5th, 2021

How do you know if you are a grateful person?  Because you say your prayers before you go to bed and say, “Thank You God for being with me today”? Is it because you say a prayer of thanks before your meal?

Truthfully, I want to say I am a grateful person. But how can I know? When you look into the mirror, and if you were to ask yourself, “Are you a grateful person” what would your answer be? How do you know?

I’m not trying to trick you with those questions. During this week’s sermon, which I have entitled Black Hat/White Hat (think old TV shows), I want to take a look at three characteristics of a grateful person.

A grateful person is transformed by Christ.

A grateful person is growing in gratitude.

A grateful person is dependent on God.

Obviously, I’m going to look at each one of these in a bit more depth. I invite you to join us in person if you can. If not, please join us live stream. If you can’t watch it “live” you can always go back to it another time during the week.  Thanks for praying for us.

#ThePivot#Gratitude

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Would you agree that given the current state of our world we need something to hang our hat on?

I think that coat rack is gratitude. Gratitude reveals each person’s core-his priorities, his presuppositions, his understanding of God, and his ways.  Truth: our gratefulness to God and our indifference toward Him lays the line of demarcation between wisdom and folly.  I am calling that “The Pivot.”

When a basketball player is dribbling and needs to change direction he pivots. When a player gets a pass and faces the hoop or turns on a dime, he must have a pivot foot. It is a foot that is always grounded. To move both feet while in possession of the ball is a “travel.’ (Unless, of course, you are in the NBA. Then you can run about 5 yards with it then shoot or pass).

In our walk with Christ, our future swings on a well-oiled hinge or one that is rusty and grungy. Gratitude is either a well-oiled hinge or it is old and rusty. I think it can be said whichever one is used the most…gratitude or griping, gratitude or ungratefulness. You choose.

My sermon Sunday is the beginning of a 4-week series called “Attitude Check.” It, of course, will lead up to the Sunday following the Thanksgiving holiday. And I suspect you can already guess my title: The Pivot. Join me please as we study from I  Tim.1:12-15 and Deut.33:25.

We had a dead battery pack for the first service last week so the quality was not as good as it should have been so I apologize for the lag. But the pack had sufficiently charged for the second service. If you missed last week you can watch it on YouTube. Just look for the 10:45 heading. We will be ready to go this week! If you can’t join us, please pray for us.

#SomeGaveAll

Friday, September 24th, 2021

I cringe as I write this:

On May 19, 1992  Billy Ray Cyrus released a song from an album which became the #1 album for the year. This same album contained a mega hit, that song about somebody’s “achy breaky heart.” Among the silliness, though, was a song called “Some Gave All” and he was criticized by some as writing a “war song.” Seriously? It was a tribute to the men and women who served our country and to those who gave their all.  The chorus of the song is one worth remembering: “All gave some, some gave all/Some stood through for the red, white and blue/And some had to fall/And if you ever think of me/Think of all your liberties and recall/Some gave all.”  Those who know me would be shocked that I referenced a country song since I listen to very little-like zero-country music today. But the message of that song should cross every musical barrier.

I am preaching this week on Mark 12 and to be totally honest, it left me exhausted as I tried to narrow it down to a few succinct points. After a lot of work and “playing around” with the chapter, I think I finally found it.  I am going to be all “preacherish” and use three main points (I usually stick to two). Here they are:

I. The Cornerstone (verses 1-12)

II. The Creed (verses 28-34)

III. The Coin (41-44)

Each of the main thoughts find their root in the Scripture indicated. It will easy to follow along if you would like to join us. As you can gather my sermon will be called “Some Gave All” but it will not focus on the political aspect at all. It will, however, focus on how each thought zeroes in on giving all.

I would love to have you join me in person or via live stream.  If not, prayer would most certainly be appreciated.

#TrueWorship#TrueFaith

Friday, September 17th, 2021

I’m coming close to finishing my series on Mark-The Servant King. The final 5 sermons will cover chapters 11-16. This week’s message begins what is often called “Passion Week” found in chapter 11.

I’ve decided to divide this chapter into 2 sections: True Worship and True Faith.

The first includes Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. I’m going to include a quote from a man by the name of Steve Lambert which shows the difference between Jesus entering Jerusalem and Mohammad entering Mecca. Since it a bit long for this post, I’m going to begin next week with it. I hope you will make your way back here to see that quote.  Meanwhile, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people were yelling Hosanna (which means “Save Now!”) and laying palm branches on the ground. Sadly, they were not praising Jesus because He was the Messiah. They were not pleading for salvation from sin but for blessing, prosperity, and deliverance from Roman rule.  I’ll let you make your own application to how that applies to today’s “religious” people.

The second is Jesus’ incident with the fig tree that had leaves but no fruit. It is not easily understood by many because it seems harsh. A tree with leaves but no figs. Why was it cursed to a life of never bearing fruit?  I hope to explain that during this part of the message.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary of another time, once said,

God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.

May our faith always be the kind that trusts and forgives like Jesus did.  Check us out Sunday in person or online at 9 and 10:45. I’d love to have you visit with us. If not, please pray.

#Post9/11#SundayPoints

Sunday, September 12th, 2021

I wasn’t lazy. Honestly. 🙂  And I wasn’t forgetful. (Although that is a possibility at times).

I was trying to honor the 9/11 moment in history. After my last post I wanted it to stay for few days.

So today, I would like to give you some insight into my sermon today (or yesterday) depending on when you read this. I preached from Mark 10 and has been the protocol I had to leave out some of the chapter. For someone who preaches 45-50 minutes they might be able to do it, but since I preach in the neighborhood of 25 minutes I have to be selective.  My title was “How to Avoid a Face Plant” and I suspect you can figure out that it has something to do with pride.  You would be right. Someone has said,

Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.

Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor; But with the humble there is wisdom.”  We are familiar with the easy translation of Pr.16:18: “Pride goes before the fall.”

In Mark 10 Jesus gives us four lessons we need to learn:

  1. Adults shall become children. (13-19). Lesson: Salvation is for those who are like little children realizing they cannot save themselves, and must come seeking grace.
  2. The First shall be last. (17-31). Lesson: This young man lacked one thing: love for God. God is no one’s debtor. Those who are first in this world may end up last in the kingdom.
  3. Servants shall be rulers. (35-45). Lesson: Worldly people want power and authority to lord over others, but in the kingdom, greatness is measured by humility of service.
  4. The Poor become rich. (46-52). Lesson: The crowd has physical sight but spiritual insight. Bartimaeus had no sight but had deep insight.

I’ll leave the application to you. We can all use a bit more humility and a lot less pride.

#Revelation!#Jesus

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

I’m pretty sure that you, like me, have used some phrases with regularity. Phrases like “Things are not always as they seem.”  “Looks can be deceiving.” “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Tragically, many of us do not see ourselves as we truly are. It’s a game we play with ourselves and with others.  I remember back in 2003 I visited the doctor and he was unhappy with my numbers. After seeing them I had to admit they were high. Too high. So was my weight. I weighed in at 233 pounds. Now, I’m 6’5″ so I can carry that weight(so I told myself). I was also lifting weights, almost daily at the local high school, so I was also pretty solid.  But what I didn’t see was the growing middle section of my torso. After all, when one looks into the mirror he doesn’t normally look at that; he/she looks at what they like. The doctor set me straight. Lose weight or go on meds. In two months I lost 20 pounds and my numbers came tumbling down. I liked it so well I dropped to 200 which is where I was in May of 2004 at a significant event in my life. (I also had no muscle since all I did was ride and never lifted a weight. But that is another story).

Point: I never saw myself as the doctor saw me.  I lied to myself that I was healthy because I was big and muscular. 

We do that same thing in our walk with Christ. It is much easier to hide behind the facade and pretend we are someone we are not or pretend we are more than we are. It is like we are living in a permanent cosplay performance.  The road to being like Jesus begins with realizing who Jesus is and then who He desires us to be.

My sermon Sunday is from Mark 9 where we find the great story of the Transfiguration and it ends with an appeal from Jesus to be like children. I’d like to invite you to join me this Sunday at 9 and 10:45 in person or live stream.  If you are unable to make it, would you mind saying a prayer for us please? Thanks.

#LawsFamily#Testimony

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

I’m not preaching this Sunday because Mike, Trisha, and Ryan Laws are our special guests.

I have been anticipating this for over 2 months. Mike donated his kidney to his son in order to save his life.  A perfectly healthy, 13 year old, soccer-playing teenage who in a matter of days found himself in the ICU because of a kidney disease is the basis for the Laws’ story. The foundation of it though is the faithfulness of God as they cried, trusted, sought answers, watched Ryan lay in a bed unable to respond, until finally both Mike and Trisha were tested as matches. They decided Mike would be the one to give his son new life. What greater father/son love story could you find? 

Oh yeah, there is one. God the Father giving up His Son on the cross for our salvation.

Please join us live at 9 and 10:45 as they tell their story, a testimony to God’s incredible love and faithfulness.

And BTW: Mike has been back at work and Ryan is back at soccer going full bore.  You gotta hear their story!