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September 27

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

I took part in an intervention yesterday.

No…not the kind that confronts a family member or church member or a friend who needs help. You know…the one who is drinking too much, or is becoming (or is) addicted to drugs, or the one who is thinking of or has tried self-harm.

Not that kind. I serve as the chaplain for the Owen County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) and have since the new sheriff took over in January of 2023. I’m honored to do so. I’ve met some really cool men (sorry, there are no ladies at this point, although they would be welcomed). An intervention takes place after there has been a traumatic event take place involving deputies, first responders, fire personnel…public servants. Sheriff White will usually text me and say, “Bill, we need an intervention. Can we do it on such-and-such a day?”

We’ve had several-each one for a different reason. They are designed for the folks to talk, cry if they want, share their experience, vent, and allow them to heal. It allows me and others to speak life into each other, to facilitate a judgment-free space where honesty and openness are vital.

Sort of reminds me of what the church should be all about. Not necessarily a circle where people sit down and open up (although it could be that), but most definitely a judgment free zone where a person can be open and honest. It goes without saying that we all need each other and I have written about that in other devotions. But Paul’s words to the church in Corinth in I Corinthians 11 about the working of the body are so pertinent. We all need each other. When one hurts we all hurt; when one cries we all cry; when one laughs we all laugh with them.

When the church acts like the church should. we would be surprised at a difference we would make in the lives of others, and there is no telling what kind of healing, help and encouragement will come out of it.

But I’d sure like to see that!

September 6

Wednesday, September 6th, 2023

In any church, job, team, or group, there are (generally) two kinds of people: those who are productive and you want to be around, and those who are destructive and you should avoid being around.  Let’s take each group and give a scenario.

The church world. There are the productive-those who have bought into the mission and vision of the church and work toward helping it be fulfilled. They serve willingly, encourage frequently, and love always.  Those who are destructive undermine the mission and vision, harp constantly, gossip and spread harsh words indiscriminately.

The job world. Those who do their job, often going above and beyond. They encourage others and do their job with a solid desire to do their best in all things. The destructive counterpart sows discord, does only what is expected (and nothing more but often less), and refuses to help another.

The team world. There are those teammates whose sole goal is to boost the team, to see the team succeed, not caring who gets the credit or the points or the accolades. They might be a regular starter or the 6th man off the bench (Celtic player and Hall of Famer John Havlicek comes to mind).  There are, of course, those who are glory-hounds. They love and seek the applause, the approval, and the accolades. Oh yeah, the points also. They act as though they are a one-man team (no such animal).

The group world. There are those who encourage others, discussion, and hearing multiple viewpoints, keeping an open mind to the suggestions of others. There also those “group killers.” They want it quick, no discussion, often because their point of view is the only one worth considering.

There are more ways to “flesh out” the above four groups in this discussion. But I’ll let you do that.

My thoughts this morning were prompted by Paul’s words to Titus: “But avoid foolish controversies. genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (3:9-10) (ESV)  Sounds harsh but Paul knew what we know: “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”  Church. Job. Team. Group.

The questions comes down to this: which one are you? The one people enjoy having around or the one whom they wish would take their shtick somewhere else.


September 5

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023

There is one word-in leadership and in life-that never has and never will go out of style.

That one word? I.N.T.E.G.R.I.T.Y.

Integrity has been defined as “who you are when no one’s looking.” That is a pretty spot on definition but in some ways it is almost incomplete.  I get what the definition is saying. Many people are one way in public and another in private. The “up front” persona picture people see is no where near the “in secret” persona. I’ll let you pursue that thought on your own.

But I also think that saying might be a tad bit short on meaning. Being who we are behind the scenes as we are up front is vital. But…what do people see up front? It is someone worth emulating? Is it someone worth following?

I was reminded of that this morning as I read Titus 2:7-8- “Show yourself in all respects  to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Do you see the word “model?” Do you see the words “integrity, dignity, and sound speech?” Those are some serious words! And they come with some meaning and challenge. My translation of that verse is “Live in such a way that when someone says something bad about you people will know they are lying.”

I thought of the Apostle Peter’s words in I Peter 3:16-17- “Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

Integrity means being who we say we are-in private and in public.

August 16

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

Huckster (Unofficial definition): “a user; a fake; a pretender; one who uses the gullibility of another to take advantage of them.” (my unofficial definition)

It’s not at all unusual to read of someone taking advantage of another. It seems like we read of or hear of some scam or some Ponzi scheme or some trickery about every day. We are being warned about people, for example, offering ERC (Employee Retention Credit) during COVID. What I wish I could tell them is “Stop calling me! We don’t want or need your fake help!” but that would probably embolden them even more. I am personally sick and tired of phone calls (fortunately silenced by my settings on my phone for numbers not in my contacts) or emails (can you say “junk mail”?) trying to get me or the church to take advantage of their garbage. (I’d like to use a number of words here but I don’t talk like that).

I read-more than I ‘d like to-of supposed “Christians/church members” taking advantage of others, especially seniors, for some “can’t miss” investment scheme. First hint: can’t miss. Second hint: otherworldly returns.  Suggestion: avoid the Ponzi scheme like a plague.

Then there are those hucksters (so-called religious teachers) who prey on people because they want the money and promise healing, wealth, or good health. Here let me spell it out for you: H.U.C.K.S.T.E.R. If someone like the Apostle Paul  learned to live with the thorn-in-the-flesh, should we not also realize that on one can promise health and wealth? Check out Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12: “…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me…Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this…But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 cor. 12:7-10) (ESV)

No one- NO ONE- can promise you health and wealth. The one who does? Huh, a new definition of a huckster. Don’t fall for it. You will come out poorer in the end.

July 27

Thursday, July 27th, 2023

We often use as a rule of thumb the old adage called The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is a good ruler to use…


What do you do with those who continually mistreat, continually belittle, continually demean, continually malign, and basically make your life miserable? What then?

I’m not one who feels one should continually be stepped on, stepped over, or discarded. Admittedly, it does take a lot to get me to the point of “blowing their doors off” but that is another story for another time. There are just some people, though, who seem to be happiest then they are miserably making others’ lives that way. They complain about every little thing. They put down others’ efforts  as maybe being inadequate, or misguided. No one does it quite right (least to their specifications).  Too little experience. Things aren’t quite straight enough, spectacular enough, creative enough…you get the picture.

If you are like me, you get tired of the grumbling. the judging; the “it’s not good enough;” or the like. It calls for you to either walk away, or ignore, become like them, or…

…you show them extra grace. There are just some people who require it. Instead of joining their club or ignoring their club, why not try to find the source of their attitude or sour disposition?  Maybe they are suffering some trauma? Maybe they have stuff going on that makes it feel like there is a vice on their heart or head. While it is never easy showing extra grace, Proverbs 25:21-22 is true: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head…”  (NASB2020)

Be an extra grace-giving person if you can. You never know whose life you can help make a difference in.

{Note: I know there is more to this topic and it can be much more complicated. This is just surface talk. Let me just say this: do not allow their attitude to determine yours and the way they treat others (or you) to determine how you do.}

July 17

Monday, July 17th, 2023

As leaders, and in my case a pastor/Christian leader, there are what I will call “fine line” moments. One of those “fine line” moments is the fine line between confidence and bragging or arrogance.

It is one thing to be sure of yourself; it is another to be arrogant.

It is one thing to be confident of your ability; it is another to come off as a “you-can’t-do-it-as-well-as-I-can.”

It is one thing to know your subject; it is another to come off as a know-it-all.

Fine lines. As leaders we face them every day. In an effort to not come off as incompetent, we overplay our hand and often find ourselves in no-man’s land. We are unable to fulfill what we said we would do.

I wonder if that is how the Apostle Paul felt as he wrote 2 Corinthians 11 & 12. In chapter 11 he says, “If I must boast, i will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (v.30). And then in chapter 12 he tells about the visit he had (using third person) that could have puffed him up, but instead a thorn in the flesh reminded him to stay down-to-earth. He learned God’s grace was sufficient. He learned he had nothing to really brag about, even though he had a special event in his life. His fine line between bragging and confidence and humility was widened by the thorn he prayed 3 times to have removed.

My guess? God knew Paul had a tendency to brag a little. He got defensive several times in his writings. Maybe he thought a little too much of himself at times. The thorn kept him humble. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (12:10).

One of the marks of a true leader is humility, the marker/fine line between acceptance and “I can hardly stomach being around you.”

July 13

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

INFLUENCE.  Someone has said, “Leadership is influence.” That is a big word which goes both ways. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” That is true so I hope and pray that when people are around me I encourage them. I lift them up. I influence them for the good. Ultimately, I want them to consider Jesus-a follower of Him or not.

But sometimes it is the other way around and it comes when I least expect it. Yesterday was a perfect example.

At lunch time I met with a young man whom I have known for a little over 6 years. I met him and his young family when they returned from a traumatic time in South Sudan where they had served as missionaries. Their experience, while it had its good points, was very draining. Spiritually. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. God, in His marvelous way and plan has brought healing. Next week he, his wife, and now three children (it was one when they came home), are heading to Nairobi, Kenya as missionaries. They are going to encourage other missionaries who are in the place they were. Their home will be a sanctuary for recovery and rest. His heart for God and for other missionaries shows God’s power in healing their hearts. I came away encouraged.

Then last night Jo and I took a young family (a young couple and their three children (5, 3, and a newborn) to the Mexican restaurant for a meal away from home. We figured they could use it. 🙂  (And I never heard Jo complain about eating out…ever).  They are a wonderful couple/family, obviously in love, and have two delightful children and one who I’m sure will be loved, smothered, and nurtured by mom and dad and big brother and big sister. Jo went away saying, “I like them. They are so real and down to earth.” I agree. She also said she never heard the husband talk so much. 🙂

It did my heart good to be influenced. As a pastor, I am the one who is usually expected to influence and encourage. And I tried to do so in both conversations. But it was also good to be encouraged by simple conversations and shared lives.

So let me ask you: who and how have you influenced people lately?

July 6

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

I want to continue my thoughts from yesterday’s devotion. I wrote about listening to God, about being aware of His “voice.” But the opposite of that, or perhaps the offshoot of that is how do I know the choice I made, or the way I am going is God’s or mine? There have been many times I have pursued a path believing it was Him leading me when I found out it wasn’t. It was more my own desire or maybe desperation that led me to choose that path.

So…how can I know?  I think there may be several answers to that question.

One, is a general unrest that develops. Call it lack of peace, a sense of incompleteness, a general disgruntledness which develops. The calling isn’t there. The fit doesn’t square with the giftedness. Extreme example: someone who feels called to be a Marine working in a flower shop. I know…silly…and I’m not putting down working in a flower shop. But some people just don’t fit the square hole because they are a round peg. God’s peace is just not there. A growing dissatisfaction develops.

Two, a door is closed. I remember wanting to leave a church I was the pastor of and everything looked positive. I had had good interviews and the leader of the group said it looked good. They would be contacting me. So I waited. And waited. I found out a couple of years later that that leader was actually getting into his car to come hear me preach when he got a call from the interim pastor who said, “We aren’t interested in him anymore.” Come to find out he had his own agenda; the man he hand-picked didn’t last very long; and I didn’t go there. Less than two years later I was here at my current church. Ironically, that leader left that church to pastor another church here in town and we actually rented our first house from that church. After meeting him in person, we had lunch together and he told me the story and apologized for not calling me to tell me. He then took me to the head elder of that church and we all talked and he also apologized. Long story short: that door was closed. No…make that slammed in my face. But I’m also here today to tell you I am glad.

Third, sometimes life events happen. A sickness. A sudden change of health status of you or someone you love. A significant event with a child or spouse alters your course.

Here’s the truth though: God loves you; He loves me; and His greatest desire is that we know that and trust Him to have His will and way in our lives. He has His will. He has His way. It may be different than mine, but it is ALWAYS RIGHT AND BEST.

June 8

Thursday, June 8th, 2023

We will often use or hear used a saying: “I really have to walk a fine line.” We use that phrase when we are trying to describe the “fineness” between choices. Some might use it to describe the slim difference between right and wrong. Or we might use it when describing whether to say or not, whether to do or not do something.

One of the struggles the church faces-and it has always been this way-is the battle between truth and love. Someone has put it this way: “All truth without love is legalism (and I might add harshness); all love with no truth is mere sentimentality.” It is a fine line between being repulsive to the world because of our stand, and yet be attractive to the world because of our love and care.

See the point? There are those who are hard-liners…no bending whatsoever. “You must stand your ground even if it offends” and I agree we should not compromise. But that ground should be stood with love in our hearts not belligerence.  That is the fine line. How much “stand” vs how much love?

There is a battle going on between isolation and assimilation. Do we withdraw or do we just drift with the cultural? You have probably heard this quote in some form: “The boat is to be in the water, but its bad news if the water gets in the boat.” That is the constant struggle. And while we are debating the rights and wrongs of things, the world has wormed its way into the church. For example, while we have debated the rightness and wrongness of say, same sex attraction (and for the record I do believe God is very clear that He created us male and female), the church has become inundated and has allowed false teachers who tell people God owes them special blessings because they are people of God to infiltrate our defenses. Seems like the classic example of misdirection by the enemy. Get them to focus on this and I’ll slip in under the radar with this.

We do walk a fine line between acceptance and love. Love and truth always go together. It’s a fine line but one we need to thread and navigate carefully.

June 5

Monday, June 5th, 2023

I’m no expert that’s for sure. I constantly tell the folks at the church I pastor that I am not a professional counselor. What I am is a pastor who has a heart for His (and my) people. Since the first of May (excluding Mother’s Day), I have been preaching a series called Faith Over Fear. It has been a real test for me in preparing it and I have done a ton of reading to do that. With the exception of Father’s Day, I have two Sundays left in the series.

During my prep I have been using a 31-day devotional called Anxiety…Knowing God’s Peace by Paul Tautges. I highly recommend it. My thoughts today come from that book-Day 28. The devotion today are my thoughts with credit given when I use his. 

First, please read Psalm 27. Read it slowly. Digest it. Now, go back and reread verses 1, 4-6, and 13-14.

Anxiety comes from all angles. Some of it is external. David talks about evildoers, adversaries, enemies, people who say lies about him, and armies at war. (vv.2,3,6,12)

But notice where he goes for help! Not his inner Self. Not his guru. Not his self-help books. Not his weapons of war. No, take a moment to read verses 1,4,6,11, and 13-14.

What can we learn from David in Psalm 27 (and here is where I copy from Mr. Tautges’ book):

  • Faith cripples the power of fear by reminding us of the right-now presence of the Lord. (v.1)
  • Faith cripples the power of our fear when our focus and affection become singular in the Lord. (v.4)

Mr. Tautges is correct in those statements. I’m not so naive to think that it as is as easy as “acknowledge and stop worrying.” But it is a place to start! The chorus from an old song comes to mind: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Setting our sights on Jesus recalibrates us; refocuses our heart where it belongs and in turn, alleviates our fears.

What or WHO will you focus on today?