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June 24

Monday, June 24th, 2024

“Welcome to Pioneer Days.”

Those were the words I greeted people with yesterday. No, we didn’t have a dress-up Sunday. And no, Jesse James, Wild Bill, or any other cowboy came to visit. What made it like Pioneer Days was at 8:00 am

THE POWER WENT OUT.

I haven’t heard the exact cause although I have heard of a tree across a power line a few miles down the road, but then I heard of others who didn’t have power. One lives a good 10-15 miles from the church building and another lives a little over two the opposite direction.  The people at the first service were real troopers and so we soldiered on. We sang with minimum instrumentation. We sang without the words on the screen (Power Point). I preached holding a little light in my hand so I could see my notes and Bible (that was weird). And by the time we were done the temperature and humidity in the building had become a sauna-like existence. It was so bad that even those who always come up to speak to me afterwards or to give me a hug left without doing either. I told someone I sure am glad I used deodorant and body spray! 🙂  Gail spoke to me. She said, “It used to be we didn’t have A/C in our houses and survived. Now we can barely function without it.” (Comments paraphrased). She’s right you know?

I am really proud of the folks from OVCF. I do feel bad for the first-time visitors we had. But then again, they did see us “trooper on.”

Back to my opening comment. It sure makes one wonder how in the world they did it back in Pioneer Days.  No air. No fans. No electricity. Maybe because of that they could better manage a day like yesterday. Hot, humid, with temps in the 80s-90s. But we survived without power instruments. Without Power Point. Without air. Without lights. Without fans. I knew those bulletins we use are more than just to make our Bibles look thick. 🙂 Oh…five minutes after I gave the benediction the power came back on in time for a cool down for the second service.

Thankfully, our worship is not dependent on modern conveniences to be worship. Simple. Singularly focused. God-honoring. That is all we had…but that was enough.

{Note: There will be no meditation tomorrow. For a belated birthday present, we are taking Tami to see her beloved Atlanta Braves (cough cough) see the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. We will be leaving this morning (Monday) and returning tomorrow. Your prayers for a safe trip would be appreciated). One good thing: I am wearing Pittsburgh Pirate shirt. 🙂 }

June 17

Monday, June 17th, 2024

This past weekend was one of milestones for me. Three to be exact. I’ll go from Good, to Better, to Best.

Milestone #1– Although mostly meaningless to many of you, I reached my first 20 mile ride of the season. I have slowly been building my mileage throughout this season, although it has never been this late when I have hit this marker. But life happens. A tsunami-like work schedule, weird weather (so far lots of rain), family commitments, knee issues and age (71) have all played havoc with my riding routine. It got so bad that I even road one morning this past week in 40 degree weather! I slightly under-dressed for that one and got back to the office with my hands not working very well (I couldn’t move them).  This past Saturday I hit the 20 mile marker. It was a pretty good day for a ride. Hot (which I like) and a tad bit windy. But I survived. 🙂

Milestone #2– Father’s Day. 49 years ago and 44 years (almost 45) ago, I became a father. Tami and Janna have been the two blessings in my life I would never want to have been without. And then Janna blessed me with being a grandfather almost 18 years ago (October). Braden has been a highlight of my time here on earth. I realize not all can say the same about their children and grandchildren, but I thank God every day for these three gifts God gave me.

Milestone #3– This one is THE highlight of my milestones, the coup de grace of blessings. June 16, 1973 is when Jo and I were married. So yesterday, June 16th, was our 51st anniversary. We have been through a lot; have had our share of ups and downs; moved when we didn’t want to and moved when we did; celebrated the highlights and mourned the low-lights (the death of our parents for one); and we did it together. People find it incredible when I say we have never had an argument, but then I remind them we have had lots of quiet nights. 🙂  She has hopefully seen the transformation of an arrogant, opinionated,  know-it-all into a man whose heart beats with love for God and for the people He has entrusted to me in my role as pastor/shepherd. At 71 I still have a passion for my work and want to continue doing this until God says, “Enough.”  But more than that I want to be known as a man who loved His God first and foremost, loved his children, loved his grandson, loved the church he is now serving, but most of all, loved his wife and was an example of a godly husband, father, grandfather, pastor and man. 

Will there be more milestones? I certainly hope so. But only the Father knows (and He ain’t telling). Meanwhile, I want to live my life with purpose and meaning and to live it well.

June 6

Thursday, June 6th, 2024

I thought I would be doing a post on Jacob wrestling with God. But something else has come to the forefront and takes importance. Some of it is not my words. They come from a blogging friend whom I have come to love at a (very long) distance and respect. Her husband, Dick, is a pastor and she has had (and still does have) her own blog. I’m going to put two links I would ask that you read. You may comment here or you may follow her and email her personally. That being said, I would still like to hear your thoughts.

There is a lot of ruminating and discussion going on in the church world concerning what our culture is demanding we accept. Probably the one affecting us the most is the whole Alphabet soup of letters and the acceptance of that lifestyle. While I am willing to accept anyone who walks through the doors of the church, and can be friendly to anyone, I cannot and will not affirm their lifestyle.  There is a difference between acceptance and affirmation. That is not hatred. That is not judgment. It is standing on the Bible as the infallible, inerrant, Spirit-inspired Word of God. To compromise that is (in my mind and heart) to deny the faith. We are urged to “defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. (Jude 3). To read the next verse tells you why: “I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  (emphasis mine) Can anyone say 2024? (And they have the nerve to say the Bible is so out-dated). 

Pam writes from the heart. I will let her two blogs tell you her story.

Read this one first: https://2encourage.blogspot.com/2024/06/changes-in-umc.html

Read this one next: https://2encourage.blogspot.com/2024/05/try-little-kindness.html

Here was my email to Pam: Well…you sure did it in! 🙂 And I totally agree with you on both. Although not a member or any way affiliated with the UMC, I ache for those, like you and Dick, who want to stay true to God’s Word and find yourself on the outside not even being able to look in. I suspect there are many grieving with you over what is lost and probably will never be recovered. I have to think that what they deem a “world reaching decision” will, in actuality, destroy the UMC. One cannot compromise with the world and expect good results. I John 2:15-17 shows us that. In our effort to be “kind” we have fallen on the slippery slope and done a free fall.

Prayers for you and Dick to find your niche and place of service.

In all honesty, I stand firm with Dick and Pam and what I wrote. I see the downfall of the UMC and others of that ilk in the years to come. All one has to do is look at the more liberal denominations and see their decline in all ways in order to see the devastating affect of compromise. We are not “kind” if we withhold the truth of God’s Word and the results of rejection of it, and even more, Jesus.

I would like to know what you think. Feel free to comment here, but may I also encourage you to encourage Pam (and Dick).

{All Scripture from the New Living Translation}

May 30

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

I cheated. I wrote this post ahead of time just in case I did not make it back home Wednesday and we decided to stay the night somewhere. Here were the thoughts I postponed from yesterday’s post to give an update on Janna.

WHAT DO YOU THINK CONSTITUTES A GOOD FAMILY?

Of course, the answers are many. Here are a few: Empathy. Sympathy. Teamwork with teammates. Honesty. Taking responsibility. Accepting responsibility.  Forgiveness. Space to allow for mistakes. The freedom to make mistakes and admit them. Love (obviously). Faith. Prayers. Shared shoulders. And the list goes on.

Now…consider the church as a family. The very same characteristics of a blood family are also to be there for a different kind of blood family.

In Isaiah 1 the people of Judah were acting very “unfamily-like.” Their outward actions were blatant displays of disrespect.  Yeah…that happens in real families. To put it very bluntly, their outward actions did not show the state of their heart.  Or maybe they did?

How easy it is to put on a show at home and with our church family. Jesus said the religious leaders’ lips said one thing but their hearts were far from Him.  It is called “going through the motions.” Family members do that.  Church family members to that also. They act like they like you, but what they do and say behind your back hurts like fire.

Frankly, self-concern replaces other-concern. It destroys families. It devastates church families. Arguing and fighting, even over petty things, plays havoc on a family’s unity. It does the same for a church family.

Don’t be a “ruiner;” be a builder.

May 28

Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

It has been a wild and wooly Memorial Day weekend. Instead of it being the laid-back-and-just-grill-a-hamburnger-or-bratwurst kind of holiday, mine was anything but laid back.  And just so you know…I am not complaining. At all. There are times in a pastor’s life where all kinds of stuff happens that takes one out of a routine.

It started Saturday when I found my Saturday being a busy one. Normally, I get up early and go to the office for 1-2 hours then head to the Y for about a 1-1 1/2 hour workout. Then after my shower I head back to the office where I study and pull things together for Sunday. Around 1 or 2:00 I normally head HOME where I relax, study, read and visit with Jo for the rest of the day. This past Saturday we had planned on attending a wedding on Saturday afternoon, but my Saturday afternoon was all different. I found myself visiting someone at the Hospice House in Bloomington and then running to the Bloomington hospital to see someone I had just found out was in. When I got HOME that afternoon it was time to eat and rest. I had told the folks that I would probably not be able to attend the wedding because of my visits and also the need to study.

Sunday seemed to go off without a hitch until the storm came through. We were done with our worship and people were milling around as the deluge hit and then the power went off. NOW THAT WAS FUN!!  Meanwhile, it is pouring like cats and dogs; people were getting soaked as they ran to their cars (even with umbrellas); and I hadn’t left the building. The rain slacked off until I decided to leave. Since I park at the back of the lot only one word can describe me. Can you say drenched?  At the same time we are expecting our daughter and her significant other to get here to drop her off for a few days. They get here and fortunately, we never lost power in town. After lunch and a short visit, I spent the rest of the afternoon at the office due to the hectic nature of this week and made my way HOME early evening.

Monday I came to the office to do my Encounter Time since Janna was sleeping in the living room and I didn’t want to wake her.  My slowed-down Monday took on a whole ‘nother dimension when I found myself going to the Hospice House again (for what may be my final visit) and then head to the hospital to visit two patients, one a new one with a stroke and an emergency surgery as a result. I finally made it HOME.

Today Janna has eye surgery with a follow up tomorrow and a trip to Ohio to take her to her home on Wednesday. Probably Thursday Jo and I will be back HOME.

You may be wondering: why the travelogue Bill? Notice the word I emphasized throughout the post. HOME. That word means different things to different people. HOME to me means a place of safety and security and love and acceptance and kindness and relaxation. A place of LOVE. Hmmmm sounds like what the church ought to be. And that is my focus these days. How can the church be a HOME? I have so much more to say and will…another time. This is already too long. But over the course of the next few weeks and months I will be sharing more of the church being a HOME.

Meanwhile, I may post tomorrow but will be out of commission until Monday. I’d appreciate your prayers for Janna’s surgery and our trip to Ohio and back.

May 21

Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

SIZE REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

I’ve come to that settled conclusion. Now, lest someone get the very wrong idea that saying is a risque’ comment, let me correct you from the get-go.  Some can accuse me of clickbait with that comment, but let no one think I’m being off-color. Not even close.

For years I lived and breathed size. Church size. The bigger the church, the better it looked for me. Man, how wrong I was!! Obsessed with having a big church, I attended all the church growth seminars/conferences. I heard “How to break the 200/300 barrier” or “How to grow to this size” more than I care to admit. I heard, ad infinitum ad nauseum, how I needed to move from being a pastor to being a vision-casting, rule-making, control-freaking, domineering-leaning, take-it-or-leave-it pastor. Oops, I mean CEO. The title “pastor” no longer meant shepherd; it meant “I’m the boss and you’ll do it my way, accept my vision, agree to follow or don’t let the door hit you on the way out” kind of leader.  Can I scream now or later?

To my shame, I bought into that, BUT FORTUNATELY God knew my heart and personality better than I did at that time and knew I would NEVER feel comfortable sitting in an elevated chair of pomposity. The Scriptures also had a devastating effect on me: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Js. 4:6).  “Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.” (Pr. 21:4) And here is one that came true: “No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord.” (Pr. 21:30)

As I said that latter one came true. It’s called being fired or in softer terms: Being strongly encouraged to move on.  God knew where my heart was. It was not in riding herd on sheep; it was not in trying to “beat them” into submission; it was not in threats or ultimatums; it WAS in being a shepherd. In loving the people in my care. In caring for them. In crying with them. In laughing with them. In doing life with them. In praying with and for them.

“Thank you Lord, that no one can stand against Your plans, especially me. I’m satisfied with a small church and people I love.  I would much rather be in a small church contented and knowing I am in Your will than in a much bigger church where I sound like a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. I will forever be grateful for your reality check over 20 years ago.”

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

May 16

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

There are a lot of ways to destroy a church, a business, or even a friendship. Since my job is the pastor of a church, let me focus on that.

First, it is really important to clarify a term. By church I am NOT referring to any physical structures. A physical structure can be destroyed any number of ways (like many around the world are today), but the church can go on…and does. A natural disaster.  A mob bent on destruction. A vengeful act. An act of hatred. Houses of worship can be leveled.

But a more insidious type of destruction is one from within. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can sneak in and spread false teaching. A leader can “ride herd” on a church and bring it to its knees (check out 3 John 9-10 and the story of Diotrephes). There is one type I think that brings more churches to its knees (not in a good way) than just about any other. This verse from Proverbs 16:28 says all that needs said: “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (NLT)

It’s easy to see. You want to destroy a church? You want to destroy a company? You want to destroy a friendship? Gossip. Be a troublemaker. Or let them go unchecked. Let it go unchecked and watch the dominoes fall. Little by little. Piece by piece. All that will be left is a pile of ashes or rubble. If the enemy can get the people inside bickering, talking smack, spreading poison or something as ugly, he will have found the way to bring the church down. It is the most effective way and he didn’t need a bulldozer to accomplish his feat.

Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution. Stop the gossip and the gossiper.

May 9

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

INSTANT GRATIFICATION VS LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT

We live in an instant society. Instant potatoes. Instant coffee. Instant meals. That comes with drawbacks. Instant potatoes are nowhere close to real mashed potatoes…no matter what the commercials might say. Instant oatmeal. I remember liking and eating CoCo Wheats. They certainly weren’t instant. They seemed to take forever to cook. Microwaves coming along made things even quicker. They tell me instant coffee is nowhere close to fresh ground bean coffee. (I wouldn’t know since I don’t drink either).

There is nothing wrong with microwaves and instant meals or instant anything. However, what one might sacrifice in taste, for example, is made up for in convenience and quickness.

There isn’t anything wrong with instant anything except that it will never happen in spiritual growth. In Bible study last night we were discussing 2 Peter 1:5-7: “In view of all this , make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” (New Living Translation). Those three verses show that spiritual growth is not instant, but, is instead, a process. In this case, of adding one virtue on top of another. Sort of like building blocks. There is no such animal as “instant growth.” Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. To become the man or woman God desires requires that we take it step by step. Sometimes we will notice huge gains and other times the pace is as slow as a snail.

Whichever the case-move forward. Slowly prodding or sprinting. It is a long distance run. Just keep moving forward. Keep growing. Don’t be satisfied with stagnation or the status-quo. 

May 6

Monday, May 6th, 2024

Most people, if not all, look for shortcuts from time to time. If there is a way to make things easier, to make things less complicated, we will generally try to find it. And, for the most part, there is nothing wrong with that. After all, some of the best inventions or step-saving ideas have come as a result of people working to speed things up, to make some things easier to do.

But there are some things which cannot be changed or sidestepped. Like life and what we go through. Part and parcel of life is hardship. No matter how smoothly I want life to be, there will be rough patches. I can’t skirt around them. I cant bury my head in the sand and pretend  they don’t exist. I can’t hide from them.

The Apostle Paul wrote some interesting words to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3-6: “Endure suffering along with me, as a good solider of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.” He mentions soldiers, athletes, and farmers. Soldiers stay focused. Athletes stay committed to the rules. Farmers work hard. Neither of them can take a shortcut to reach their goal. Soldiers can’t dilly dally and not train to expect to win the battle. An athlete can’t short circuit his training, either by drugs or laziness. And a farmer can’t expect a harvest without putting in the proper field work. 

Life is hard. Life is tough. There are no shortcuts to getting around that. And frankly, IMHO, life is appreciated a whole lot more-the reward is sweeter-when the proper attention is given to the process required for the long run.

May 2

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

“You are getting too big for your britches.”

Back when I was young (and yes, that was a long time ago), one of the favorite expressions of people-and my parents were no exception- was the above statement. It usually preceded some type of discipline- a spanking when I was younger, an exclusion from an activity, a grounding, or something else. It’s not hard to know what it means.

I’ve been reading a book by Katelyn Beaty entitled Celebrities for Jesus. It is subtitled “How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are hurting the church.” I’m two years past when it was first published and first hit crashed on the scene.  I’m just under halfway through and it has exposed the ugly underbelly of the “celebrity culture” the church has found itself in, particularly in the megachurch world. Sadly, we have embraced (and enabled)-wittingly or unwittingly- the whole “the pastor is a celebrity and can do no wrong” thought process. Walking hand in hand with that idea is the inability to confront, challenge, or question said celebrity pastor. Ms. Beaty speaks highly of Billy Graham and his attempts to safeguard himself from any moral scandal by his complete transparency. (It was known as the “Billy Graham Rule” which simply said he would never be alone with a woman who was not his wife). His Modesto Manifesto called for complete honesty, accountability, and transparency. Ms. Beaty contrasts that with the shortfalls of some megachurch personalities. 

I was reminded of my reading of the book when I read the following from I Timothy 4:11-13 this morning: “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.”  That highlighted section is important to remember.

No way would Paul embrace or be on board the “celebrity culture train.” Read his words-not just here, but elsewhere. Integrity, transparency and HUMILITY were big in his eyes.  But here is an important fact to remember- Megachurch Pastor, CEO, Owner, Manager, Worker- integrity, honesty and humility are essential to all and cannot/should not be dismissed.

No one has any business getting too big for their britches.