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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?

#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.

#Heart#Cross#Dichotomy

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hey! Thanks for dropping by my blog. I had planned on posting one more time before this weekend but a quick and last minute trip to Ohio to visit with our daughter and grandson took precedence and me out of the loop. So I’m playing a little bit of catch up and this is one of those places. I have to forego the post I was going to do and post this one instead.

The old hymn used the refrain, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross/’Til my trophies at last I’ll lay down.” The question which begs to be asked is, “How can someone cherish the cross? What we know of it and the horrors and torture which surrounded it says anything but “cherish.” It was an ugly instrument of death.

The past two weeks I have been looking at the cross and will do the same this week. This Sunday is commonly called Palm Sunday because it showcases the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem surrounded by followers laying palm branches on the ground.  It introduces what is called Holy Week, so-called because it is the last week of Jesus’ earthly life/ministry before His crucifixion and resurrection.  Some have called this week and crucifixion as being the week where we get to see a perfect example of cosmic child abuse.  Progressive “Christianity” is whacked and the purveyors of it are complicit in its and their “whackness.”

The cross was absolutely essential to the story of salvation.  Take away the cross and you take away the heart of the whole story.  The Bible tells us this is the way it had to be!  JESUS DIED WILLINGLY, laying down His life on His own accord.  He wasn’t forced or tricked or blackmailed or threatened with the extinction of His people. He did all of this willingly. In fact, Hebrews 12 says, “For the joy set before Him.”

My purpose this Sunday is to show the heart of the cross.  I want to show how Jesus defied common wisdom and practice and instead of whining and crying and fighting, He willingly laid down His life for me, for you.”  I even have a great story which Charles Dickens included in The Tale of Two Cities which I will be using in the sermon.  (If you are unable to watch or attend and are good, I will include it in a post this coming week). 🙂

Please join me in person or online on the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.  You can check out the church’s website for those links.  And as always, if you are unable to do either, please pray for me, for us. Thanks.

#Forgiveness#LessonsforReal

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

This past Sunday I preached about the necessity of the cross. I once again went to an unlikely Scripture for better understanding: Psalm 130.  Thanks to the late Dr. James Boice (see the end of this post for an interesting fun fact), I was able to make some excellent remarks about God’s forgiveness. I share those with you here:

#1- God’s forgiveness is inclusive. Verse 4 does not say, “There is forgiveness for this sin but not that sin.” It would be even worse if it said, “There is forgiveness for this sin” but then not include the one you or I are guilty of. God’s forgiveness sets no limits. The only sin not forgiven is the rejection of Christ.

#2- God’s forgiveness is for now.  The translators do it right here (v.4) by using the word “is.”  The original Hebrew is even stronger because it says, “With you forgiveness.” You or I don’t have to wonder about our future of standing before God or standing in trembling uncertainty. There is forgiveness for you, this moment, right now.

#3- God’s forgiveness is for those who want it. In verses 1-2 the psalmist says, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” Forgiveness is there but you must ask for it. One thing I have noticed over the years is God will never force Himself on anyone. You must ask. You must want Him. Notice the psalmist is confessing his sin in verse 1. Pleading for mercy in verse 2. And then believing and trusting God for that mercy in verse 4. 

#4- God’s forgiveness leads to godly living. Some people object to grace being a motivating factor because they say it leads to sin. You know that argument right? “Bill, if you teach about grace it will just give people a license to sin.” I see it as the opposite. The forgiveness we are talking about does not lead to license but to reverence for God. Notice the words at the end of verse 4: “to be feared.” That is reverence. A life truly changed by the power of the Gospel and the power of God’s forgiveness will not fall into a pattern of sin and disregard for God’s Word. The true effects of forgiveness are love and worship and service not license to sin.

So there you have it. Four lessons to learn and apply about forgiveness. I hope this helps you understand forgiveness a little more.

And now for the fun fact: Dr. Boice’s father was an M.D. who practiced in Duquesne, PA. and McKeesport Hospital. He was my family doctor. Today he would be called a Pediatrician. That was l-o-o-o-o-n-g before specialized medicine. 🙂 And there you have an interesting fun fact.

#LessonsfromaShadow

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

Yesterday I preached on the Shadow of the Cross. In my last post, I mentioned there were 6 lessons from a book I planned to use during the sermon and then I was going to post here.  I’d like to share three here and then three in the next post.

#1- The shadow of the cross teaches us who we are. The cross should and must humble us. Very few of us look at ourselves with humility. Instead, we compare and tell ourselves we aren’t really too bad. We need to rekindle the thoughts we had when we initially were saved-a sinner in need of and saved by grace.

#2- The shadow of the cross teaches us what we need. The cross teaches me I need inward change.  I don’t need to change my circumstances, my lot in life, my place of living, or even a physical change.  I need an inward, heart change.  And here is the kicker: I am incapable of making this change happen on my own.

#3- The shadow of the cross teaches us who God is. Bluntly put: He is God and I am not.  But it goes much deeper than that. The cross teaches me that God is unrelentingly merciful.  The cross teaches me God is full of grace. The cross teaches me that He is the One who wants to be in charge and I am incapable of managing and running my own life. When God takes over ownership of my life, He wants to be the One in charge. He does not need a backseat driver telling Him what to do with my life.

The main ideas are from the book by Paul David Tripp entitled Journey to the Cross.  The commentary is mine. As you think about the upcoming season of the cross and Resurrection Sunday I hope this helps put things in perspective.  I will post the next three on Wednesday.

#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.

#NewPost#FamiliarSongs

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Over at my other blog I have written a devotion which will post tomorrow. But I know that many do not read it so I thought I would post it here a day earlier. In that post I talk about a song which plays over and over in one’s head.  Here is the rest of tomorrow’s devotion blog. By the way, I’d love to have you join me on a daily basis as I write a devotion that I pray helps my readers face the day.  The link to that blog is here.  And here is that post:

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP.  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay. (Here is the link to that song).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

#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.

#Worship#Religion

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Several years ago Victoria Osteen, the wife of entrepreneur, Joel Osteen, was recorded “preaching” and saying the following: “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself.”  I have seen that video clip and am still dumbfounded by it. What I have not seen since it was shared on social media is that clip of her saying that being paired with a scene from the film, Billy Madison where a man says, “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.”

When we hear a religious figure say out loud that we do not worship God for God, we know that is patently absurd. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the exact opposite of what Mrs. Osteen and others of her ilk say. It says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity has changed that to “God’s chief end is to glorify man and enjoy him forever.”

One pastor said, “It is possible to go to church and hear little about God and much about you.”

How can a person argue with that when it is staring us in the face?  “I didn’t get anything out of church today.” “What a waste of time today was. The music was too slow and the sermon didn’t touch me at all. I got nothing out of being in church.” What a difference it would make if we flipped that and asked, “What did I give God today? Did I give Him my full-on worship? Did I listen intently to the message as it was delivered from God’s Word? Was my heart into worship today?”

My sermon Sunday will tackle some of these thoughts as I use Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 to talk about Religion Investigated. I would love it if you would watch the live stream if you are unable to come.  If you are I look forward to seeing you in person.  And, as always, I appreciate your prayers.