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July 7

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Have you ever noticed there are “difference makers” in our lives? That one event that forever “made” you. Or scarred you. That one person whose influence you will never forget. That one pastor or teacher or boss or acquaintance who stands out. Good or bad.

There is one thing (I’m not sure what other word to use) that makes the difference in life. It is the line of demarcation. It is the Mason-Dixon Line of the Christian faith. It’s the game-changer. They even wrote a song about it years (and years) ago: The Cross Made the Difference in Me.

I don’t know why but that phrase/song came to my mind as I was reading the Scripture this morning found in Luke 23:50-52 and John 19:38-42. Two men are mentioned there whose lives would now be forever marked by the cross: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Yeah…that Nicodemus. The one who came to Jesus by night to talk. John 3 gives that whole conversation. And Joseph, a Pharisee, a quiet follower of Jesus. Well, not anymore. The cross brought them both out of hiding. Into plain sight. All would know NOW where their true allegiance lay.

The cross became their game-changer. It is ours as well. Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” (Gal.6:14) He also wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor.1:18). He says later in that same chapter that the cross was a stumblingblock. (v.23)

The cross was Paul’s line. It was Joseph’s. It was Nic’s. It is to be mine. It is to be yours.

“Father, may the cross be the defining moment for me. May it always stand as a line in the sand for me. You are my choice. The cross truly made a difference in me.”

July 3

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

I think one of the hardest things as a pastor is trying to help people and them either not accepting it or continuing to struggle. One of the most difficult things to overcome is anger, especially that which is caused by betrayal or insensitivity. Or worst of all, by gossip.

That last one is an ugly poison, a cancer that afflicts many organizations, but is especially devastating to a church. I remember reading about an old Quaker pastor who had one insidious lady in his church who loved to gossip. But one time her gossip ruined people. She came into the pastor’s office to apologize and ask what she can do to make it right. He gave her a bag of feathers and said to go outside and release them. She did. When she was done, and thought all was well, she asked him what she was to do next. He told her to go around and pick up all the feathers. “That’s impossible. They’re scattered all over!” And he said, “So are your words and you’ll never be able to take them all back.”

  • There are mean people out there in this world. Don’t tolerate them.
  • There are self-righteous, opinionated people in this world. Dismiss them.
  • There are gossipy people in this world. Rebuke them.
  • There are evil people in this world. Avoid them.

Know what is ever sadder? Many of those people are so-called “Christians.” (Yeah, you saw the change from Christ-follower to “Christians”).  Gossip N.E.V.E.R. heals or helps. It always hurts and destroys. Even gossips sometimes tell the truth, even if it hurts. Or is that especially if that hurts. I had one who justified her gossip with “I told the truth” to which I said, “Why say anything at all?”

James 3 says our tongue is a flame that quickly gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy is wrought when a fire gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy and damage is wrought when a tongue gets out of control.

“Father, words can be used for good or for evil. May my words bring healing to others and glory to You in all things.”

 

July 2

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

There are several sayings and ideas that flash through my head from time to time. You see, there have been times I’ve thought about going back to school.  Not anymore though because at 67 I’m not sure there would be much of a return. 🙂 Unless, of course, it would be for counseling.  But then again… (I could write a whole lot about that).

Anyway,  about those sayings.  Here are a few of them:

  • “Much learning doth make thee mad.”  (No one ever accused me of that)
  • “He’s so smart, but has no common sense.”  (Ditto, especially on that first part)
  • “His head is so far up in the clouds he doesn’t know how to relate to people.”  (I know I’m tall but having that said about me would kill me).

Stuff like that. Then there’s the pompous idiots who think because he/she has a degree they are much better than everyone else.

I don’t want either. There has got to be a balance between knowledge and the ability to minister (and to be seen as a normal person). I don’t want to spend so much time learning that I forget the practical. It used to be said that Bible college was not the place to go if you want to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The idea was you spend so much time studying about Jesus and very little time getting to know Jesus.

That’s a danger for anyone…period. Proverbs 4: 20-23 are verses well worth keeping in mind.  “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Emphasis on the last verse. The NLT puts it this way: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  I like that. Where my heart is = the direction of my life. My course in life is not more education. My course in life is to be more intimate with the Father and to pursue that intimacy. “Go there heart. Go there.”

“Father, may that be my deep desire. Not to worry about more education for the sake of education or to have letters after my name (who really cares anyway?).  I like being called “Bill” or “Pastor Bill.”  May my greatest desire be to know You.”

June 29

Monday, June 29th, 2020

“On Christ the solid rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand/All other ground is sinking sand.”  It seems to me we need to learn that lesson in spades these days.

There is no doubt that ungodliness is getting bolder and bolder. Blatant sin is being paraded in front of our very eyes. There is no effort to hide it or disguise it anymore. It’s “in your face” and the follower of Christ is expected to take it, accept it, or go under. I tired long ago of the nightly news. I tired of seeing sin blaring out from the screen-Hollywood telling me I need to accept this/that or I’m a bigot. I have some kind of phobia. If I speak up I’m censored, black-balled, or attacked. If I stay silent it is seen as acceptance.

I read recently about an old country preacher who once said,

I may tremble on the rock, but the rock don’t tremble under me.

As the opening statement said, “On Christ the solid rock I stand…” His foundation is solid. The foundations of our society may be trembling or even crumbling, but our solid rock is not. As a follower of Christ, I may come to the fork in the road when I must make a choice- stand and be counted or falter and take the easy way. But when that time comes I pray my choice will be with the Rock who never rolls.

“Father, You are forever. You are true. Help me to remember to stand with You because Your foundation does not tremble and will not crumble.”

June 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”

June 24

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

A towel. That’s what he used to give the students. I knew of a college president who, when presenting their diploma, also gave each graduate a towel. The ensemble would have been complete if could have given them a basin…but I guess that would have seemed a little impractical. 🙂

Why? Well, all you have to do is read John 13 and the answer jumps out at you. The setting is clear. Jesus and His disciples are in the Upper Room preparing to commemorate the Passover with a meal. But He does this really weird thing. He removes his outer robe, dons a towel around his waist, and proceeds to wash His disciples’ feet. Of all the way out, surprising things Jesus could have done, this is one of them.  And totally unexpected.  Some church groups get this wrong. Not that washing feet in wrong. But to make it a ritual part of worship was not Jesus’ intention. He even says so in verse 7: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”  “Of course we do Jesus. You’re washing our feet.” Key to remember: “You do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”

They saw foot-washing; Jesus showed humility. They saw a very common act; Jesus showed servanthood. That college president had it right. Graduation was a high point; they must reach a low point. We are saved to serve. Not thinking of yourself less, but thinking less of yourself. Peter missed the point…then. He got the point…later. Jesus’ words in verse 7 fulfilled.

Being a servant is a calling-a high calling. But it is not a high position where we can exalt ourselves.  It is a high that lowers itself. It’s a high that takes a towel, wraps it around your waist, and serves. Being a servant is a place of high standing.

“Father, let me be one of Your servants.  Help me not to consider myself above anyone else. Help me to don my towel and serve.”

June 19

Friday, June 19th, 2020

The term pro-life has come to mean several things. Say, “I’m pro-life” and it will be (rightfully) assumed you are against abortion. It should mean so much more though. Sadly, it has come to be a point of contention. It should mean you are for life. From prebirth to death life is precious. We have a couple who knew before birth their son would be born with health-challenges, particularly the heart. But abortion never entered their minds, never even crossed them. A handicapped child deserves life. An older person who suffers from dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, or any other debilitating disease deserves life.

Yesterday I took part in a special dedication ceremony. A Safe Haven Baby Box (SHBB) was placed in Spencer. There are only 32 of the boxes in the country- Owen County is #32. The SHBB is for mom’s who have realized their end of taking care of their baby to be able to put their baby in the box. A door opens and inside is a baby incubator, where she can place her baby. The door locks, an alarm sounds both when the door is open and when a baby is placed in the box. It is both heated and air-conditioned. The alarm is sent to 911 where a dispatch is sent to retrieve the baby and put it in good hands. Every life matters and this gives an “unwanted” baby a chance at life. That is being proactive about pro-life! Two of our ladies-Shelby and Vicki-were a big part of making this a reality. I was honored to be asked to pray a blessing over this endeavor.

Every Christ-follower should be pro-life. That is not a political statement. It is a “life statement.”

“Father, Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly. Help me to not only relish that life in and from Him, but to also show others life in Him.”

June 12

Friday, June 12th, 2020

One of the sayings which was used ad infinitum, ad nauseum during the COV”ID-19 crisis was “we are in this together.” While that is true to some extent (it is affecting all of our lives), it is also not true to some extent. It is hard to be in something together where the other person-or I myself- is belligerent and hard to get along with. I’ve seen it happen in sports, government, marriage, and yes, in churches.

When I pitched in Little League baseball, I once pitched a no-hitter. I would be foolish to think I did that all myself. I had 8 other players all pulling together to win 8-0. When I averaged 20 points/15 rebounds per game as a Junior in college, I’m a fool if I think for a moment it wasn’t a team game and I didn’t need the other four guys who were on the court the same time as me.

If you read Our Daily Bread today you will read the story of a pastor and a father (injured in a house fire) take turns running and carrying the father’s daughter to a hospital 6 miles away. When one tired of carrying her, the other took his turn. Together they made the journey together. Together they made sure the daughter and father were both treated.

Churches rely on people working together. When a leader or an individual or a pastor goes rogue, all kinds of trouble can break loose. Unless…it is checked by those who work together. One of the hallmarks of a church should be unity. Unity is not all thinking alike, but it is thinking with the common goal in mind. Jesus once said that all people would know we are His disciples if we love one another.

“Father, help me to be one who works together with others. Help me to be a catalyst for unity not division.”

June 10

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

We talk a lot about lifting Jesus up. A song says, “We want to see Jesus lifted high/ A banner that flies across the sky.”  We might say or pray or sing for Jesus to be honored and glorified and lifted up, but do you know how hard that is? (‘Course you do). Have you given any thought to how hollow that sometimes sounds because of ineptness at doing that? Before I say why I think that is the case, let’s review.

In Number 21 the people became impatient with God. They were tired of and began to complain about the lack of water, food, and eating manna. So He sent fiery serpents among them that bit the people and many died as a result of it. They cried out about the sin so God had Moses fashion a serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up. All those who looked upon it would live. (21:4-9)

Fast forward a couple thousand years (give or take) to John 3:14 where Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Verse 15 tells why: “That whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Later in John (chapter 12) Jesus is told some Greeks were seeking Him. In verse 32 He says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Three places where a distinct reference is made to Jesus being lifted up. The obvious understanding is that He will be lifted up on the cross.  In salvation, He is to be lifted up. In the daily expression of my faith, He is to be lifted up. Now to the original question; why is that so hard? The answer is easy really. I tend to be in this for myself way too much. To lift Jesus up means to point people to the cross and to lower myself in my eyes and in the eyes of others. No more “I’m in this for me.” No more “What can I get out of this?” I am to lift Jesus up because only by seeing Him will life and hope and salvation be found.

“Father, may I lay aside myself and lift Jesus up-in all things, at all times. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, may the cross of Christ be looked upon and give life.”

June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other.