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May 8

Monday, May 8th, 2023

Common in many news cycles is the passing along of what are called conspiracy theories. The past several elections (and I’m sure future ones) have been filled with them. They are on both sides of the aisle-R or D; conservative or liberal; cultish or mainstream; religious or non-religious.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new though. In the days of Jesus, one that was passed along by those who wanted to downplay or deny the resurrection was that the disciples had stolen the body (Check out Matthew 28:11-15). The religious leaders bribed the Roman guards to spread the rumor, i.e. conspiracy theory, the disciples has stolen the body. They even said they would straighten it out with the authorities.

Theories about the resurrection abound. The wrong tomb theory (the ladies went to the wrong tomb). The swoon theory (Jesus didn’t really die on the cross; He just passed out.  He then revived in the cold, dark tomb, mustered enough strength to roll the stone away, overpower the guards and walk away).  Wrong person theory (someone took His place on the cross and was mistaken for Jesus). Tell me: how ridiculous do those all sound? The conspiracies go on and on-ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Unfounded “truths.” Gossip. Slander. Lies. Mean-spirited words. All are part of a subversive element that should not be, but is, in the church. Relationships and friendships cannot survive with that kind of garbage being present in individual lives, and especially in a church.

Let’s stick to the facts, the truth. Let’s not pay one bit of attention to political conspiracy theories. And certainly not give any credence to conspiracy theories that make their way into the church. THEY AIN’T WORTH IT!  Let’s leave the conspiracy theories where they belong…in the trash.

May 4

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

It seems to me that in this world today, some people’s favorite sport is to tear people down, to cut them into little pieces, and then to spit them out. How tragic we think so little of others that we have made that our favorite sport.

I was reading a devotion by Pastor Greg Laurie in his book Every Day with Jesus when he shared a thought from radio Bible teacher, the last J. Vernon McGee.  He said that McGee used to say that the only exercise some Christians get is running down others and jumping to conclusions.

I wish I could say he was/is wrong, but I can’t. I’ve seen it too often-in myself-and in others. As I’ve aged, I would like to think my tendency to throw people under the bus to deflect blame and jumping to conclusions to justify my words or actions has lessened. I would like to believe I have become wiser, more discerning in what I think and ultimately say. 

Gossip and slander are ugly vices. They are both deadly sins. I’ve heard it put this way: before we say a word we should T-H-I-N-K. It is True? (Even if it is does it need to be passed on? See “K”). It is Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? If not, maybe we ought to just keep our words and thoughts to ourselves. Common vernacular: maybe we just ought to just keep our mouth shut.

Let’s stop running others down and jumping to conclusions. Let’s stop pressing down on others and start lifting/raising people up.  What do you say? Join me?

April 25

Tuesday, April 25th, 2023

I’ve had my share of accidents. Besides the common everyday kind, like stubbing a toe and watching it make putting on a shoe or even walking difficult. Or like bending over and hitting my head on the way back up (that happens a lot when one is 6’5″ and his wife is barely 5’3″).

But I’ve also had my share of the more serious kind. Being hit while riding my bike in 2016 and then watching the hit-n-run driver just take off as I laid on the pavement. (It is mixed bag. I’m so grateful nothing was coming, but at the same time they may have seen the person never stop).  Three months later going over the handlebars while going downhill and breaking a collarbone, 3 ribs, and leaving a bunch of skin on the pavement. (I also split my helmet in three places. So grateful for that helmet which I won’t ride without). I eventually had back surgery to take a bone chip off a nerve. I’ve had a meniscus taken care of and have been told I need a knee replacement.  That was 6 years ago. I’m holding out till my death. 🙂

But mine are minor to the life-altering ones like cancer, heart issues, MS, Parkinson’s, and others. I spoke with someone recently whose life and plans have been turned upside down with a cancer diagnosis and a congenital heart issue she knew nothing about.

Suffering is hard to take. Understanding it is sometimes even harder. To simply say, “God allows suffering” doesn’t cut it with most people. But there is one thing that is true: God allows suffering and brings comfort so that we might have empathy for someone else. In fact, I told this person that I, obviously, have no way to know why this has come her way, but I do hope she will see others and give them the same comfort and hope and spiritual help she has received. Nothing is wasted. No lesson is to be kept to oneself. God does comfort us, but it is not just for us, but for others. We are to be a comfort to others.

Don’t wallow in self-pity or keep the lessons you are learning to yourself. Encourage others to keep going and to cling to Jesus as they do.

April 18

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023

In this day and age of anger, hatred, malice, and vitriolic words, a person of peace, tranquility, and yes, sanity, is rare. Sadly rare. As I have given some thought to how I must react to these actions and words by others, I read a devotion. I must give credit to Cheryl E. Smith for the “germ” of my thoughts today. See the end of this post for information about this devotion.

Cheryl was writing about her husband, Kevin (whom I would love to meet), and how he was a humble man. The scenario is as Kevin is talking to their son about some of his experiences in the banking business. Here is what Cheryl wrote:

“Kevin respects people-all people. Regardless of their condition, age, race, discrepancies, behavior, or differences. I have never seen him mistreat anyone in all the years I have known him.

“The main thing I noticed about how he handled the customers he mentioned was his refusal to embarrass them. Even though they didn’t fit the everyday ‘normal’ mold, he never made them feel inferior. He never drew attention to their differences. He gave them all the time they needed. He treated them the way they and all people deserve to be treated. He handled them with the utmost respect, kindness, and patience-how he wants to be treated.

“He never embarrassed anyone. He never made anyone feel secondary. He loved each person with equal intensity. He was never partial. He never showed favoritism. He never recoiled, no matter how disfigured, marred, or ‘abnormal’ the person appeared.” (Excerpts from pages 126-127)

Hmmmm. That sounds like Someone else I know.  His name is Jesus. He didn’t play favorites, unless you consider giving hope, love, and acceptance to the down-and-out, the “less than,” the hurting, the physically imperfect, or the lost soul.

Imagine a world-small and big-if we all did like Jesus. Talk about change!!! But it starts with us in our own small world.

{Note: Cheryl has written 2 volumes called Homespun Devotions. I have resisted doing a review because I wanted to savor my time with them. Since I “won” Volume 2 in a blog give-away, I am reading it first. (Yeah…I know I’m not “right” sometimes).  I’m reading one or two of the short chapters at a time. I will give a complete review when I am finished with Volume 2. Hint: Buy it!}

April 17

Monday, April 17th, 2023

Several weeks ago our community and surrounding areas experienced something we had never really experienced before-a tornado. We are more prone to flooding caused by the White River than a tornado. High and straight-line winds uprooted several huge trees-their roots made weaker by rain-saturated ground- in town. The state park just outside of town saw its campground destroyed-not by a tornado landing, but by the vortex, the suction of one passing over. Campers were flipped over. Tree-multiple trees-were uprooted and flung around like toothpicks, landing on campers and vehicles. And sadly two folks, who didn’t hear the warning to evacuate and head to the bathhouse were found dead in their camper. The tornado did land and wiped out multiple homes.

The Monday following the tornado, our Youth Pastor, Ryan, took two days to assess the situation, meet with some of the homeowners and offer help. He put feet to that by delivering over $600 worth of huge totes that the elders okayed for him to buy. But it wasn’t a one-and-done.

This past Saturday, after a special class presented by a group called IDES (International Disaster Emergency Services)-which ironically had been rescheduled from a few weeks earlier, several of our folks put on gloves, boots, and dirty clothes and spent over 3 hours helping some of the homeowners who solicited and accepted help.

I was proud of those folks. They became the hands and feet of Jesus. The common thing is to express sympathy and grief for a situation or loss and to say, “We will pray for you” and then go on our merry way. These folks said, “No. We will do more than that.” James 2 speaks directly to that. What good is it to say I’m sorry to hear you are hungry and without a place to lay your head, and then send them on their way with a “be warm and well fed.”

I believe those who helped were examples of what James 2:18 says, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” We are saved by faith alone, but like James says our works should follow that salvation.

Big or small. Show your faith by what you do.

April 13

Thursday, April 13th, 2023

Anniversaries are dubious.

I remember once reading or hearing someone say that I ought to be aware of anniversaries in peoples’ lives.  He explained that by illustrating it like this: Our lives are like a circle that every year repeats itself in some way. Take a tire on a car or bike for example. You get a bulge or a nail in the tire and every time that tire makes a revolution, there is a bump (at least until the tire goes flat). My wife’s car tire recently had a screw in it. She could hear something but could not figure out what it was. She asked me to go for a ride to see what I thought and as she got in to drive I took a look at the passenger side front tire. There as plain as day was a screw. Another half revolution and she would have felt it again and I would not have seen it as quickly as I did. There, obviously, was no sense in driving! Every time that tire rotated it made a noise.

People’s lives are like that. Whenever a significant life event happens, a bulge is made in the “tire” of life. Every time the anniversary of that significant event comes around, emotions and memories kick in.  That’s why deaths, anniversaries (good and bad), highs and lows hit us as they do. Knowing this principle has helped me go a long way in understanding people’s ups and downs.

April 13 has two meanings to me. Today would have been my late mother’s 91st birthday. I watched her breathe her last breath in March of 2004, about one month before her 72nd birthday. (Is it bad that I can’t remember the exact date?) She died of a rare form of lung cancer which, at the time, mainly struck women who were non-smokers (like n.e.v.e.r.). Strangely, there is not a glitch in my tire. Even though I felt the loss at the moment, and as I did her funeral service, I rejoice at her reward. She is with Jesus and celebrating with her mother and father.

April 13, 1975 was also the day of my ordination into the ministry. I wanted to honor her witness and faithfulness by being set aside for the ministry on her birthday. She influenced me so much to follow Jesus and was so “proud” that all four of her boys served the Lord in some way. 48 “official” years today. So given my years of college ministry while still a student and the year following my graduation, I have been at this gig for 50+ years. There have been ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it. The call of God on my life has been sure.

I’m grateful for my mother. I honor her today because her influence still remains in my calling to follow Jesus and to encourage others to do the same.  TODAY IS A GOOD DAY!

March 30

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

What does God require of us? That is the question I posed to my  “66” class last night. (I am teaching a class on the 66 books of the Bible).

I can hear it now. “Pastor Bill is going to click off a list of Do’s and Don’t’s related to his interpretation of Scripture and tell me that “God says you can do this-or-that, but you can’t do this-or-that.” Most often when some makes this kind of list (particularly a pastor or religious teacher) the list of what you cannot do far outnumbers the list of what you can do.  And sadly, the list includes things which are outward. “You don’t wear this or that.” “You don’t cut your hair.” “You don’t wear pants.” (It always seems to be tougher on women-know what I mean?)

Even “religious” things are involved. Regular church attendance. Tithing (cheerfully of course). Read the Bible on a daily basis. Clean language. Sing (old hymns only) with gusto. Read the KJV only. Now…I’m not saying those are bad things in, and of themselves (although I might balk at the hymns and KJV only idea 🙂 ), but even those are duties.

You see…all of those, as well as others, can be done by anyone, even if that person’s heart is not right with God. They are all centered on the outward and reveal nothing of the heart.

Micah, the Old Testament prophet, has a different take on what is required. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (mercy), and to walk humbly with God?” (ESV)  Three things: 1) do justice; 2) love mercy; 3) walk humbly with God.

The qualifier is that last one. It takes the other two and tells us why we should do them and how. To walk humbly with God infiltrates all we do. Every act of justice, every act of mercy, flows from a heart walking with God. The so-called “justice movement” we witnessed in the summer of 2020, and even now, was not justice. It was anarchy.  It was not rooted at all in Biblical truth or in walking humbly with God.

If you want to see an example of justice in action, stop right now and read James (a book in the Bible) 2:1-9,14-20.

Three things are required: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Talk about a game-changer! Hmmm not a stitch of clothing or hair mentioned. 🙂

March 23

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Do you know what a cool bean is? No? Well some kindergarten kids in our school system do.

One of the programs I was involved in was called Real Men Read sponsored by the UW of Monroe County. I live in Owen County but it was a partnership since we don’t have one. Each month I would read to Mrs. Lee’s K class as part of the program. COVID shut the program down, although I was able to keep reading to Mrs. Lee’s class (we met outside when possible). I approached the K teachers (which my daughter, Tami, is one of) about restarting it and received 100% approval. Once a month I read to 5 different K classes in 3 different schools (1-1-3) and our youth pastor, Ryan, reads to three classes in the other school.

This month has been a book called The Cool Bean. Long story short: It’s about a bean who was left out of his pod of four beans. The other three became well known all over as The Cool Beans. He tried wearing sunglasses like they did. He tried slicking back his “hair.” He tried swagging when he walked. He tried acting cool.

He failed and was left out.

Then one day everything changed. One of the cool beans helped him when he spilled something. Another bean used a “beandaid” to cover a wound. And another helped in class.  He was included in the cool beans and they had his back. One day he saw a fellow bean fall and spill his books and papers everywhere so he asked if he could help. The other beans saw it and said, “Now that is C-O-O-O-L.”  Yeah…I know…cheesy. But effective.

The story taught several lessons. One I stressed to them is you’re not cool by the sunglasses or clothes you wear; you aren’t cool by anything outward. Then one of the little girls yelled out, “It’s inside. It’s your heart!”  “Absolutely right,” I told her. She got it. “Who you are, how you treat others is what really matters.” I also told them to go home and yell out to their parents, “I’m a cool bean! and when they wonder what you are talking about, show them the book.” (The three teachers yesterday bought them the book I read to take home).  “Then, ask them to read it to you.”

When Samuel was choosing a successor to Saul as king, he had Jesse bring his sons before him. Each one he thought was the right specimen. But God had other ideas. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Case closed.  (And no, I didn’t tell this part of the lesson).

Being accepted, being loved, is not really determined by our outward appearance. Surface is not important. Beauty is more than skin deep. Don’t treat others on the basis of the outward. Serve because you don’t care about the outward and because your heart is full of humility.

Then you too can be a C-O-O-O-L BEAN!!

February 15

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

“14 year old girl takes her life after bullying.”

“Teen girl/boy found dead after cyber bullying.”

“Homeless veteran beaten to death in wheelchair on street.”

Over the last few years or so we have seen more and more headings like these than we would care to admit.  Someone shooting several people then taking their own life is not only cowardice, but commonplace. Bullying someone and causing that person to lose joy in life and the will to live is sick. Just recently a teen girl took her own life because of the beat down she received in the hallway at school. A 9 y/o was filmed being beaten on a school bus while no one stepped in to help, not even the adults.

When did we become so calloused? When did we become so uncaring about another person and either become the perp or the one standing by filming and watching?

I know actions like this have always been around. Sin is real. Maybe because of social media we hear and see it more. But it is heart-breaking and sickening that we have that much disregard for others.

We all need somebody to have our back. In Acts 9, the Apostle Paul (formerly Saul) converted to Christ after a period of hatred toward those who followed the Nazarene (Jesus). This was 3 years later and the early Christians were still skeptical of his conversion. It took Barnabas to have his back, to introduce him to the others, for the ice to be broken, fear to dissipate, and for them to open their arms.

Barnabas had Paul’s back. We all need a Barnabas, or two, or three.  See someone hurting? See someone getting a beat down emotionally or physically? See someone in a daze from bullying? Don’t just stand idly by. Come along side them. Have their back and fight back-to-back(like several scenes from Gladiator depict).

DON’T LET THE PAIN OF ANOTHER GO UNNOTICED AND “UNREACHED.” Be the one who who says, “Enough! I will stand with you.” 

February 14

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Today is Valentine’s Day. Shocker! As if you didn’t know that. A trip to any store will reveal that, even if you were Rip Van Winkle and just woke up this morning. Cards. Candy. Stuffed teddy bears with hearts. Candy. All sorts of stuffed animals. Candy. Commercials about love and rings. And did I mention candy?  All kinds of candy.  (IMHO the only legitimate candy is the one that says “chocolate” on the wrapper).

There are a lot of ways to show love. To a married couple a kiss, an embrace, words, flowers, and of course, other things express love. A hug from a parent to a child. A phone call to a loved one, especially one who doesn’t live that close. The list is endless.

Once a month, I read to 5 different K classes in our local school district. This happens to be the week this month. The book I’m reading is on Kindness from A to Z.  Each letter of the alphabet tells something they can do to show kindness.  Kindness is a way to show love.

In Deuteronomy 15, the people of Israel were to show kindness to one another, especially to those who were poor. They were warned of 4 dangers:

  • A hard heart
  • A closed hand
  • An evil thought
  • A grudging spirit

It is easy to get jaded, especially when there are people who are trying to take advantage of or hijack the system. But like in many things, among the bad are those who legitimately need help.

Let’s not close our eyes and hearts off to those who legitimately need our help, our kindness, and our love. There are those who truly do not like where they are. We may be the one who helps lift them up from their discouragement and the trap they find themselves in.

Don’t stop showing love and kindness. Guard your own heart against getting hardened to others. And when you show love, you don’t even need a card, a bear, or even candy to show it.