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#Nailed!#Pride

Friday, January 21st, 2022

Perhaps you have heard the saying “Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.” It is hard to argue with the simple truth of that statement.

I’d like to go on record as saying this: Nothing is every wasted. No plan or word of God’s is ever wasted. God is not a God of random acts. He is not a God of random, disconnected lessons.  So what is the purpose of Daniel 4 and Nebuchadnezzar’s vision? Repeat: lesson never wasted. He needed to learn a lesson about pride and God was going to teach it. But man, was it brutal! 

If you are following the series of Against the Grain you will notice that I am out of order. My original plan was to preach Daniel 3 this week (fiery furnace) and this sermon on the 30th. But the 5th Sunday is a Family Worship Sunday and the elementary kids will be in with us. So rather than do this and possibly scare some of the kids with the dreams Nebuchadnezzar had, I switched sermons.

Another development has come up as well. All of Indiana is in the RED so we are offering just live stream this week. Remember the change in time though: 10:00.

Thanks most of all for your prayers.

#AfterChristmas#Letdown

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

The last Sunday of 2021. I know some who said, “I can’t wait until 2020 is over.” Now those same people are saying, “I can’t wait until 2022 is here. Surely it will be better.” Well…I certainly don’t have a crystal ball to predict any of what is to come so I will refrain from making any predictions.

Except one.

2022 will be different from 2021. It is a new year filled with all new challenges. 

Every new year which begins holds promises of something better for all of us. We like the idea of turning over a new leaf and starting with a clean slate. But to get to the new year we have to fight through what I will call the Christmas letdown.  You know what that is: the high then the low. A veritable roller coaster of emotions.

But the new year is not without its hopes and dreams. My sermon this Sunday is one in which I uncover for you what I believe is the dream of every individual: that we all just get along. Well, you know that isn’t going to happen so let’s go to Plan B. What will it take to even begin to think that might happen?  Two qualities (IMHO):

Unity

Humility

The foundation for the sermon is from Philippians 2: 1-11.  I hope you will join me this Sunday either in person or via live stream.  We will be having only one service this week at 10:00 so you can watch it live then or catch it later. I do pray that 2022 will be a good year for you to find a deeper walk with Jesus.

This is also the last of my theme for 2021: Life on the Edge. I will unveil my theme for 2022 next week with an all new graphic.  Be looking for it. I’m also posting this early due to Christmas being on Saturday and I suspect most of us will lay aside our computers for a day or two.  🙂

#Singing!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

I posted this on my other blog, Living in the Shadow, and since it is not well read by a lot of people, I thought I would share it here.

I have always been a music person. Ever since I can remember (that might be a day or two) 🙂  I have always been a person who listens to music. I used to tell my folks I could study with music playing. Not true.  I have to admit that when I am studying or reading it has to be quiet or at least with background music I cannot know the lyrics to, i.e. classical.

Christmas is a time for songs, for singing. One of the best parts of this season is the songs-both old and new.  It doesn’t get much better than O Holy Night or Joy to the World.  The angels sang. Children sing. Adults sing. Young folks sing. Old folks sing. We can’t stop singing.

Chris Tomlin has written a (non-Christmas) song with the lyrics: “How can I stop from singing Your praise? How can I ever say enough, how amazing is Your love/How can I keep from shouting Your name. I know I am loved by the king and it makes my heart want to sing.”

This will be a different type of devotion today. I want to share some of my songs with you-those which have been meaningful to me this Christmas season. I hope it will give you something to sing. So here are a few of my favorite “new” Christmas songs. Enjoy.

https://youtu.be/5Vwu-t7QRaE

https://youtu.be/mt_xfOutfSQ

https://youtu.be/182xcb3GyOg

https://youtu.be/qmNDI4f8Wrw

If you want the lyrics (except for the last song which has them), hit CC and the lyrics will come on the screen. Enjoy the songs! May they lift your heart to heaven and put a spring in your step and a song in your heart today…and tomorrow…and the next day…(you get my drift).

#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.

 

#RandomThoughts#VaxxNoVaxx

Monday, October 11th, 2021

I’m hoping this does not sound like a political statement or rant since this is not the time or place for that. However,  after speaking with someone last night about the “mandate” which has come down to his work and the lives affected by it, I’d like to add my .02 worth.

I am neither pro-vaxx or con-vaxx. It is my personal opinion that each person, each family, must decide what is right for themselves. And please don’t get me started or side-tracked on the whole stupid mandate-mask or vaxx-thing. Trust me when I say I have feelings about that. (Bet you didn’t know that! 🙂 )

I chose to get vaccinated. I had COVID as many of you know. It ravaged my body so that I lost 48 pounds in about 4 weeks time. After a couple of procedures cleared me from some things, it was decided I had gall stones blocking my bile duct. Two more procedures were needed to make things right. I feel God restored my health, although there are still some lingering long-haul affects. I chose to be vaxxed-not because I wanted to or even needed to (ever heard of antibodies?), but for another reason.

I chose to be vaxxed for other people. I wanted people to feel safe around me. I wanted them to know if I visited them in the hospital, nursing home, in their own home, on the street, and especially here at the church, that they could feel safe around me. Again, it was my personal decision and I will judge no one who is or is not, just as I will not judge over the wearing of a mask.  (Please don’t get me started on forcing young children to wear one. Okay…you twisted my arm…what a crock!)

Let’s turn this: When Paul wrote to the Corinthians in I Cor. 8, he would not abuse his liberty at the expense of others. In other words, for the sake of others, he would forego meat offered to idols.  “Hold the hamburger please” would have been his words. 🙂 

Jesus went to the cross-not for Himself-but for the sake of others. For me. For you.

What a great way to live! Living for someone else.  Perhaps we need to start asking ourselves the question, “Who am I living for?” What do you think?

This post is my opinion. This blog is mine. It is not stating the views of the church I pastor or the elders of the church. The opinions expressed here are strictly mine. 

 

#AvoidPanic#EscapeJudgment#BeReady

Friday, October 1st, 2021

The story is told that Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made a fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives used for weapons.  Years later when Nobel’s brother died, a newspaper accidentally printed an obituary for Alfred instead. He was described as a man who became rich by enabling people to kill one another in unprecedented quantities. Shaken by this assessment, Nobel resolved to use his fortune to honor accomplishments that benefited humanity. Thus, he created the Nobel Peace Prize, among others.

I daresay very few of us get a sneak preview into how we will be remembered if we were to die today. But, if the truth be told, we tend not to be so concerned about it. We tend to be more concerned about the future.  The environmentalist is concerned about the state of the planet in the future. The secularist is concerned about the future of humanity. The follower of Christ is also concerned, but in a different way.  He is more concerned about future events, and in the long term, where he will spend eternity.

The idea of Jesus returning is on the minds of most Christ-followers, only in varying degrees. Some are rabid about it; some mildly interested; and some not at all. This week’s sermon, Mark 13, is on this very topic. I’m calling it Words for the Wise and my plan is to encourage us to look to the future but not lose sight of the present.  I look forward to you joining me.

I close with a story I will use Sunday: Waiting to be interviewed for a job as a Morse code operator, a group of applicants paid little attention to the sound of the dots and dashes that began coming over the loud speaker. Suddenly, one of the applicants rushed into the employer’s office. Soon he returned smiling. “I got the job” he exclaimed.

“How did you get ahead of us?” the others asked.

“You might have been considered if you had not been so busy talking that you did not hear the manager’s coded message,” he replied.  The message said, “The man I need must always be on the alert. The first one who interprets this and comes directly to my private office will be hired.”

You can apply it.  Hope to see you Sunday!

#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.

#September9#September11

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

I am posting this early for several reasons.  On Saturday, 9/11, I will be taking part in the memorial service the town of Spencer will be having to remember the 20th anniversary of the attacks by cowards. But an even greater reason confronts me. Today, September 9th, is the 10th anniversary of the death of local soldier, Brett Wood, in Afghanistan. I did not know Brett. I know his brother, Nikk, who attends OVCF now. So I post this in honor of Brett and to remind you not to forget.

Even writing those words-that date- brings back haunting memories.

Planes hitting two towers. Papers falling. People dying.  Metal crumbling. Layers of smoke and dust and debris in the air and on people and cars. People digging. American flag waving on site, almost like a guardian and inspiration.

“Let’s roll.” Brave passengers. Todd Beamer. Rumors of the plane headed to the White House.  An empty field. Plane crashed. Crisis averted. Lives lost.

Pentagon. The “seat” of military power. A symbol of military might and genius. The hub of decisions. Fiery death. Walls breached.

A nation united against evil. For once. “God Bless America” sung by political rivals. A common enemy. Swift action. Swift reprisal. Manhunt. Finally got him (them).

9/11…Never forget. This is not a matter of forgiveness. This is a matter of remembering the fallen.  As of today, there are just under 3000 innocent lives gone.  Heroes who rushed burning buildings. People who went to work that day not having a clue. Some of them I will see someday. Some, sadly, thought they had more time. And a few consigned to hell where their vestal virgins do not await. Only tongues of fire.

Matthew 26…Never forget. A memorial feast set aside for a Savior to never be forgotten.  Paying the ultimate price. For me. For you.

LEST WE FORGET

“Father, the memories are fresh as flashbacks occur on this 20th anniversary of evil’s destruction. Thank You for Your faithfulness through it all. Giving hope and life to so many. And thank You for the cross. Help me to never forget.”

September 11, 2001 was part of the inspiration for Brett, and his brother, Nikk, joining the military. I am proud to be a part of a community that wants to honor their fallen. We had a memorial service this past Monday, Labor Day, to honor the 13 who died in Kabul over the fiasco that is Afghanistan.  The views expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of the church I pastor.

#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.

#Leadership#ChurchLessons

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

In my last post I featured Phil Cooke’s blog entitled Leadership Lessons from Joe Biden and Afghanistan.  At the end of that post I made a comment that I would apply it to church leadership. Here is my somewhat meager attempt at doing that. I am not a “Leadership Guru” by any stretch. I have weaknesses as a leader which I am aware of.  So please understand I am not speaking from a mountain of leadership expertise as though I am “the” leader. Far from it.  Here are my thoughts born out of my last blog:

1) Incompetent leaders can rise to remarkable heights. There is no question that many leaders “get there” riding on the coattails of several different things. Personality. Talent. Who-they-know. Just because they get wherever they are going doesn’t mean they are competent leaders.

2) Fantasy isn’t a leadership strategy. I had a dream once of being a pastor of a big church. Fantasy only as I soon found out. Reality: I wasn’t equipped for that nor gifted for that. I’m good with pastoring a church in a small town. I love the people here and this November, Lord willing, will start my 17th year. Living in a Disney fantasy world would have only left me high, dry, unfulfilled, and miserable.  Whoever said, “Reality s***s” has not lived in my world.

3) Leaders take the hits. Admitting I have been wrong seems to be the theme of my ministry. 🙂  I have been wrong so many times… if I could have received $1 for every time I was wrong and had to apologize, I could retire and live off the interest. Rats!  Should have started that jar a long time ago.

4) In a crisis, leaders must face the public. Back in January of 2011 I found out we had been embezzled to the tune of $200+ thousand. After telling the leaders and having a flash meeting with them, I went before the church family to inform them of the shortage. To say people were shocked, enraged, stunned (and any other adjective you can think of) would be an understatement. But it was the right thing to do. In my mind, it was the only thing to do.

5) Good leaders listen to advice. I won’t go into my thoughts on the arrogance of Mr. Biden not listening to his advisors. But many pastors don’t either. When it comes to important decisions which affect the whole congregation, I don’t make unilateral decisions.  There are two others on staff who are involved in helping to make decisions and if it is a major one, I take it to the elders.  I found out early on it is wise to listen to others…even if I may disagree.

6) Never forget that leaders who try to leave a legacy rarely do. The best legacy I can leave behind is that I was a follower of Jesus and loved Him with all my heart. The rest takes care of itself.  It is far too easy to try to please everyone if I am concerned with my legacy.

There you have my thoughts. Totally non-political. Thoroughly my thoughts.  Leadership is different. I used to think I was a great leader. No more. I am adequate at best. I still have so much to learn.