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November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

November 23

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

As I said on Monday, this will be my last post this week. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day so I’m going to take my own advice, to practice what I preach, and take time to be thankful. The church is serving a meal for the community at noon and there will be plenty of preparation leading up to that, but I still want to take the time to be thankful. For this post I want to do what I have suggested the folks at OVCF do: make a “gratitude list.” Here is mine (at least in part):

But first, I want to show you something. I just finished reading Romans 16 this morning and Paul does exactly what I have recommended we all do: make a list. Have you ever read Romans 16? You ought to right now. Hint. Hint. He lists names. Lots of them. Names I have no clue who they belong to. Some yes-Prisca and Aquila. They are mentioned in Acts 18. Gaius (v.23). He is mentioned in 3 John by the Apostle John. Erastus (v.23). He is mentioned in Acts. Timothy (v.21). But the others? Clueless.

But what a list! Name after name. So, I’ll take a cue from him:

  • Always at the top: my Lord Jesus. No one is like Him. No one is worthy of His praise and honor. (See Paul’s words, his benediction, in verses 25-27)
  • Jo. For almost 50 years she has stood by me. Believing in me even when I had trouble believing in myself.
  • Tami and Janna. My 2 daughters. I was blown away at their births and they still put a sparkle in my eyes.
  • Braden, my only grandchild. I marvel at God’s goodness when I think of him.  Smart (4.0 student…and I can guarantee he didn’t get it from me).  Funny. Athletic. May he always strive for the right things. (And he just passed his driver’s test yesterday. Yikes!)
  • OVCF. The church I have had the joy of pastoring the past 17 years. I started #18 this week.
  • For friends throughout the years. My life is much richer because of them. Doug, my college friend whom I still get together with upon occasion (for pizza and laughs). Jim, a past cycling buddy, who has moved away. Jim is a cancer survivor. Ryan whom I met when he and his family moved here in 2008 when they started attending OVCF. We quickly became friends and our families became “Sunday eating out” groupies. 🙂 Hardly a Sunday went by that we didn’t go out to eat together. Jo hated that! NOT! He has moved away, but not so far that we can’t see each other (and even ride bikes together).
  • For my blogging friend, Martha. Blogs are almost passe’ now, but some I still read and comment at. Martha and I have stayed in contact through our blogs for a lo-o-o-n-g time.  For other blogging friends: Linda. Gail. Glynn. Pam.
  • So many more. I could fill page after page, but I won’t bore you. 🙂

Now…it’s your turn.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone. To God be all the glory, great things He has done.

November 22

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

James 1:17 speaks truth. Good truth. Much needed truth. Truth to be reminded of. 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (emphasis mine)

Notice those first few words again. “Every good and perfect gift.” We can readily agree with that can’t we?

But what if what has happened is not a good thing (at least in our eyes)?

  • This past Saturday morning, a neighbor of a family in the church I pastor, watched as their two-story log home burned to the ground. They got out with the clothes on their back and their dogs (they lost their cats).
  • I visited someone recently who could lift hundreds of pounds of weights, was as strong as an ox, but over the past year health challenges have made him a shadow of what he used to be.
  • As I have aged, I have noticed my own strength wane and knee and back issues play havoc with my active lifestyle.

Does this mean God is not good? Do these example and the countless others mean God does not care? Is He absent?

No…it does not. God has not promised a trouble-free life, no matter the false teaching by the hucksters and shysters who pretend they speak for God. In spite of the trouble, there are some things I KNOW about God.

  1. He is near.
  2. He is at hand, but is not immobile like hands of a broken clock.
  3. He is a listener, but never distracted.
  4. He never sleeps or slumbers.

What do you know about God that you can add? One more thing: be thankful for this God who is always good. Praise Him in the good and in the storm.

November 21

Monday, November 21st, 2022

It is going to be a short week here at the “Shadow.” I’m going to post Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then take Thursday off to do what I have encouraged the church I pastor to do-give thanks.

Here is Post #1 for this Thanksgiving week.

It is not a secret than what is in our heart is what will spill out. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what is in the heart.” Proverbs tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what is in us will come out.

So…consider this scenario. You are walking along,, let’s say you have a glass of Dr. Pepper Zero in your hand. No lid. No straw. Then you get bumped, and when I say bumped I don’t mean tapped on the shoulder. What will happen to your drink? Most likely it will spill out-all over your hand and possibly onto the floor.

Let’s suppose that drink is you. Life gets tough. Someone bullies you, says something very unkind. Life throws you a curve. What comes out? Well, if we take what Jesus and Proverbs said, there is no question. Anger. Vitriol. Harshness. Jealousy. You get the drift.

But what if, instead of those ugly things, your heart is filled with gratitude to God for all He has given/blessed you with?

Big, big difference.

Thankfulness becomes the overflow of the song in our hearts. Instead of thinking how we got slighted, we focus on what we have.

My challenge for me-and for you-is to rid ourselves of all ingratitude over what we think God hasn’t given us or done for us, and allow gratitude to take up root in our hearts. then the overflow will be…

GRATITUDE

November 17

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Long ago I gave up trying to figure God out. I think He wants it that way.

Over 2000 years ago He revealed Himself in the form of a baby. The Infinite One became human. Fully human. Fully divine.

I don’t understand it all. I accept it though as truth. Believe it? Yes. Understand it? No.

But even though to know God almost seems like an effort in futility at times, the hunger and desire to know Him, to probe deeper, should never stop.

Going along with that unquenchable desire to know Him is the reality that God does far more than I can ask or imagine. And He surprises me! He never ceases to amaze me.

I was reminded of that this morning when I read Romans 11: 33-36. (Please look it up in your Bible). A statement. Two rhetorical questions. A statement. Short. Simple. To the point truth.

God is amazing. I never want to close the book on that and say, “I understand.” I want to keep being amazed. I want to keep being surprised. I don’t want to settle for settle for. We sing a song with the chorus which says, “May I never lose the wonder/O the wonder of Your glory.” I simply ask that I will never lose the wonder I have for God. May my lack of knowledge spur me on to keep probing and stay on my quest. I hope you will always keep the “amazement factor” alive in your heart.

November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

November 15

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

I may be wrong (but I doubt it), but I think one of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. Do you see what I just did in that sentence? 🙂

For various reasons, admitting a mistake goes against the grain of some people. Maybe it is their personality. Maybe it is their upbringing. Maybe they are, in reality, very insecure so they put on this “I’m always right” front.

But I’m thinking that for many, it is too much of one thing and not enough of another. Say what?

Too much of one thing and not enough of another. Too much pride. Not enough humility.

Check out James 1: 19-25. It is too long for me to print it here, but as you read, take note what he is saying. Get rid of pride and the sin which comes along with it, and exhibit humility. He admonishes us to look into the Word, but not like we would a mirror.  It is easy to forget what we see (and I most definitely do sometimes) and not do anything about it. But it is also easy to look into a mirror and not be honest and say, “Whoa dude! You got it going on!”

There is NO WAY we can take an honest look into God’s Word and say that. We are told God’s Word is like a sharp, two-edged sword. As we read, we need to let it penetrate. We need to allow it to convict and lay us open. We need to let it break down our pride.

That can only happen if we come with humility.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

November 10

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

For several years I had the opportunity, the privilege, of taking part in a reading program called Real Men Read (RMR). RMR was sponsored by the United Way of Monroe County and they expanded it into Owen County. The RMR was designed for me to read to K classes so that these impressionable students, especially boys, might see that it is okay to read because a man is doing it. Many children of that age do not have good role models or influences, especially in the area of reading and education.  When I moved her in ’05, Owen County had the reputation of being the 2nd poorest county in Indiana (and I don’t need to tell you what kind of issues that raises).

The pandemic brought it to a halt…except I made an arrangement with the K teacher I had been connected to to keep reading to her class. We met outside when the weather was conducive. Fast forward to 2022. No RMR. Anywhere. It has been disbanded for whatever reason. My daughter, Tami, is now a K teacher in our local school district and so I talked with her about reading to her class.  The two other teachers in her school expressed an interest as well, so I read to their classes in October. I talked with another K teacher in the system to attends the church I pastor; she talked to her fellow teacher and she also talked with the two other K teachers in other schools. They were all on board with the program. With all of their cooperation, the RMR (which will have to be called by another name) has been reborn!

This week I read to two classes.  Next week I will read to the 3 classes again in Tami’s school. Someone else (our youth pastor, Ryan) is reading to the two classes in another school. All in all there is close to 160 K students in our school system.

All that explanation to say this: I have had a blast! I’ve tried to engage the kids as I read. They are eager. Giggly. Funny. Fidgety. Laugh easily. Yes, easily distracted. Take part in the story. And loving. I don’t leave class without a bunch of hugs. One class all came at the same time as one, then another, then the bunch wanted a hug. So I called for a group hug (ala Aladdin with Robin Williams).

It reminds me of what Jesus said about children: “Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Such joy, innocence (shame on anyone destroying that), laughter, eagerness, giggliness (and yes my spell check is telling me that is not a word. Says who?) and sensitivity. All qualities I still need when I come to Jesus, to His Word, and to the throne.

How about you? Are you childlike? Not childish. 🙂  Childlike.

I will not be posting tomorrow since it is Friday, so I want to take a moment and remind you it is Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country to keep us free so that we might enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest country in the world. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But still the best. Make sure you thank all the veterans, especially if you know of any.

November 9

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Warning: longer post than normal.

Two days ago, November 7th (which you can view here), Ryan responded in the comment section. I was going to copy and paste his response here, but suggest that you simply go to that post and read his comments. As you can see, he asked several questions of me and I would like to answer them in this post. I realize this might be inadequate to some, but hopefully it might even stir more conversation, and even more serious thought for you.

His questions in the second paragraph were, “Is there an appropriate response you use when confronted with the idea of chance and happenstance in your daily encounters? Is it enough to simply say…”I don’t believe in luck” or should we go a step further?”

I’d like to go on record as saying I don’t believe we are puppets without a will of our own to make decisions. Both good or bad, no matter the outcome. I don’t believe God has a finger on our head saying, “Turn this way” or “No, no. do an about face.” The one caveat I must make though is that I do believe God “speaks” to our spirits as He leads us and hopefully, we are sensitive enough (tuned in) to His leading and voice. I also don’t believe God is the author-in any way, shape, or form-of evil. That would be totally contrary to His nature and also unbiblical (James 1:13-15)

I believe the Bible is clear when it says we will reap what we sow. There will be consequences to bad seed, i.e. decisions, actions, etc that we make or take. Expecting God to bail us out with no ramifications is not sound thinking, or theology.

That being said, I do believe God can take what is bad and bring good out of it. I believe in a God who is filled with grace and acts with mercy. I believe in a God who does not abandon me in my “stupidity,” but will put His arms around me and walk through the fire with me. My feet and clothes might get singed, the damage might even be worse, but He will walk with me through it.

There has been, is now, and always will be two opposing forces-good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness-at war. Ephesians 6:12 is so very clear about this. The one whom I surrender to is the one that has dominance in my life.

As for luck, chance and happenstance? I realize things happen. Spur of the moment things. Comments by others. “Good luck at the game!” Cultural things we are prone to say. I don’t say anything about that. For example, if someone says, “Good luck at the game!” I know what they mean. It’s words, as Ryan put it.  However, I don’t say that. What I will say is, “Play your hardest. Give it all you got. Don’t give up” or something like that.

I definitely agree with Ryan’s comment in the first paragraph about what the enemy tries to do. The real battle is in the heart and mind of each person. Perhaps that is some of what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 12:2 when he said to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and when he wrote about the “natural cannot understand the spiritual and the flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit.”

There are some things we will never understand because our knowledge is so limited and because we cannot understand the mind of God. I choose to trust in a sovereign God who knows what is best for me…even when I go my own way and mess up. I’m glad He knows the way because I sure don’t. I need His strong and steady hand holding mine, especially when life is a minefield (sometimes of my own doing).  I don’t need luck, chance or happenstance. I NEED HIM.