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September 9

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

I remember reading a short little ditty-3 words- but can’t remember where I read it (I think it was from a Chuck Swindoll book) :

Comparisons are odious.

Comparisons are bad. Truth be known? We spend way too much time comparing, not living our lives, of comparing ourselves to others.

We compare looks. Physical features. Size. Skin color. Hair style. Shape.

We compare wealth. 401K. Retirement lifestyle. RV’s. Actions and activities.

We compare families. Success. Offspring. Athletic prowess. Accomplishments. Careers.

We compare conversion stories. How bad was it before? How dramatic? How sinful?

Comparisons are odious. I’m thinking the only comparisons I should be doing is my need for Jesus. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” (You might want to read the whole Psalm 51 chapter). Check out those comparisons!

In Mt. 25, the sheep and the goats are compared-what they did for others. But the comparison wasn’t a battle of wits and words against each other. On the contrary, Jesus was doing the judging. And the comparison was did I or did I not. What did I do for or not do for?

COMPARISONS. ARE. ODIOUS.  So…stop comparing.

“Father, you have made me to be me to used by You for You. I’ve been given a great gift-You! Use me for You and You see fit.”

Disclosure: I was inspired to write this because of something Bob Goff wrote: “Comparison will rip your sails, sink your boat, and blame the weather. Don’t buy the lie that an adventure with God is a race with everyone else.” (#252-p.301)  I just took the idea in a different direction that he did.

September 3

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

I’ve been reading a book entitled Expository Apologetics (EA) by Voddie Baucham, Jr. My estimation of him sky-rocketed first when I heard him on a podcast with Alisa Childers where they discussed his book Faultlines as well Critical Race Theory, BLM, and other subjects.  I listened to it twice so that should tell you what I thought of that interview. I just finished reading Faultlines, which took my admiration into the stratosphere. He is intelligent, witty, insightful, and unapologetic about his stand for the gospel. And, one more thing: he comes at it from a black perspective (not that makes any difference to me). You need to read his book!!

Anyway, in EA he wrote something that struck me, even in my afternoon semi-comatose mind. 🙂 I want to share it with you after I say this: I have often heard it said, “We become what we worship.” I wish I could remember who said that.

Voddie wrote this:

“God created us to be image bearers; we are made in His image to reflect His glory. When we turn that worship in another direction, we do not cease to be what we were created to be; we simply pervert the reflection. As we worship, we are conformed to the image of the one or ones to whom we give our allegiance, adoration, obeisance, time, talent, and treasure.” (p.54)

What we give our worship and attention to is what we become. I don’t need to say much more except “Choose Wisely.”

“Father, You and You alone are worthy of my worship. Help me to keep my eyes on you and not on other things, people, or events.”

August 31

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else or maybe sort of like them? 

I have given that some thought:

  • Growing up I was a baseball fanatic. I wanted to be like certain players. I devoured how certain players played or batted. Their mannerisms. I read a lot about Christian ballplayers.
  • When I played basketball I had my favorite players I followed and wanted to be like. I copied their shot, their mannerisms at the free throw line, etc.
  • As I developed as a pastor/preacher, I wanted to be a pray-er like men I read about; a preacher/teacher like G. Campbell Morgan. Then it was Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur or Charles Stanley.
  • A leader like so-and-so.

The verdict is in. Utter and complete failure. Like bomb. I tried to trade who I was for who I wanted to be. It doesn’t work that way. I am me. God created me to be me. No one else.

What got me thinking of this are the words I read from Bob Goff:

God’s never looked in your mirror and wished He saw someone else.  (#243-p.290)

Whenever I stopped trying to be like someone else (except Jesus), I found peace and contentment in my skin. God never, EVER, wanted me to be or be like someone else. Only what He created me to be.

I’m content.

“Father, thank you for making me to be me and to glorify you in the process.”

August 30

Monday, August 30th, 2021

It is Friday morning as I write this. In a few hours I will be having the funeral for a friend, a man who a vital part of OVCF, the church I pastor. It is strange it should come to be this morning to write this. I went to the office yesterday (Thursday) to work on the funeral and after working on memories of the family, I hit a wall. Nothing I thought of seemed to work. So…here I am. Writing this and about to head back up to the church office on my day off to try and get my head straight.

Over the past nine months or so, I have lost two men who were unique in their own way, but special to me.

The first, Jim, went to be with Jesus around Christmas. He was in his ’70s and had battled health issues for years. He and his wife had only been attending OVCF for a couple of years. They came from a very legalistic church and actually followed their daughter and son-in-law, who had come to OVCF probably 6 months or so earlier. Jim wasn’t fond of our music…because he didn’t know it. He was used to more traditional hymns. But when asked why they stayed at OVCF he said, “For the sermon!” He has no idea how much that meant to me. He was quiet, unassuming, but always supportive. I miss his gentle but encouraging spirit.

The second, Lynn, is Diana’s dad. She is the church secretary and we started at OVCF at the same time. Her dad, Lynn, was an out-going car salesman (“transportation consultant” as he called himself). He loved to joke, laugh, and hand out those round red-n-white hard candies. He is the ONLY one I let call me “Billy” because he loved to give people names and that was mine. It could have been worse, I guess. 🙂 Lynn was 84 and had been fairly healthy all his life. He despised going to a doctor, so yes, he could be stubborn. He will be missed at the front door of the church building-opening the door, greeting and handing out bulletins, laughing, and joking with all who came in, especially a group of guys who loved bantering back and forth. 

I loved both of those men, but I also know I will see them again. Sadness but no sorrow. Joy comes in the morning.

August 25

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Whenever Jo and I visit our daughter and grandson, we stay in a hotel. Several reasons which I will not go into. The folks at the hotel are fantastic! Sarah, the manager, whom we have gotten to know over the past few years, knows us and treats us well. All I have to do is call her and she reserves a room for us. We usually spend minimal time in our hotel room so the view is not really important to us.  It seems we either get a picture of the front overhang, thereby obscuring everything, or we get a picture of the construction going on with multiple storage units.  Lovely view.

Except for this past time. Our view was of the NNE, which included some car dealerships (almost empty of cars) and the interstate. AND a beautiful, full moon. We could see it as we drove into the hotel but it was obscured by trees and power lines. But we got to our room, opened the curtains, and VOILA! A gorgeous, full moon. No trees. No power lines. Just the moon.

Knowing the sun would be coming up that way next morning, I opened the curtains and rather than see a beautiful sunrise, my vision was blurred.  It wasn’t my glasses since I don’t have to wear them anymore. It was the windows. More succinctly…it was the moisture on the windows. Late night/early morning dew. Soon though, the sun burned it off and I was able to see the sun it all its glory…and clearly.

I’m thinking of the difficulty we all face and the verse from I Corinthians 13: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.” (v.12) Very often our vision is obscured and our view is disrupted. We don’t see clearly at all. Unobstructed, all is beautiful. But the trees and buildings and fogs of life cause us pain. It is when our mirror is clear that our vision is 20/20 and it is then we know-God is there. He always was. It just took a little less obstruction for us to see clearly.

“Father, help me to see clearly-through all the trees and branches and fog-that You are there.”

August 23

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

This past weekend Jo and I made a quick trip to Ohio on Friday to watch our grandson, Braden, play his first game as a Freshman in high school. We came back Saturday after the game. Driving 4-41/2 hours one way gives one a lot of time to think. Lately, the church family has been hit hard with “stuff.”

  • It started with me getting hit broadside on June 3rd and still working through several ETAs for the necessary part.
  • One of our ladies was heading to Indy for a quilting show and a semi sideswiped her.
  • One of our young men was hit head on. His ankle is broke significantly and may require further surgery.
  • Another had a car pull out in front of him on the way to a wedding. He and his fiance were shook up but the car is toast.
  • One young lady was rear-ended as she was turning into the church lot this past Saturday. She has a concussion and will be very, very sore.
  • One young lady’s 90+ y/o grandmother got COVID and they still don’t know how. She is, at least, able to get up and not lay around.
  • The church secretary’s father had a massive brain bleed on Thursday and was in a coma.  Yesterday afternoon he went to be with Jesus.
  • A 13 y/o has been placed in a center to get help with his anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Our youth pastor, Ryan, is slowly watching his father waste away from cancer.

There are more, but you get the picture. As I thought about all of the “stuff” hitting us, I refused to have a pity party. I thought of Daniel and I thought of something I read this past week:

God is still God even when we don’t understand His ways.

The nonbeliever cannot sync with the idea of trials and suffering and a good God.  But the follower of Jesus can. We must choose to worship God and to trust His goodness, sovereignty, and power. We remind the world around us that we are in the hands of the One who controls it all. God is still God; I am still me; and He is still in charge.

And I must also say that I am not leaving out the idea this is a Satanic attack on our church fellowship. Add to the above the masks, the fear people have, the political sides being taken on social media and yeah…I am a firm believer this could very well be a Satanic attack.

“Father, I don’t understand but I’m certainly not going to blame You. You have been, are now, and always will be in charge.”

{Quote from The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges, page 91}

August 16

Monday, August 16th, 2021

Do you know what a perfect storm is? If you watched the movie by that name, it means conditions are perfect for something phenomenal to happen. It that case, conditions were right for converging weather systems to being the storm of all storms and the vessel was caught in it. {Spoiler: it sank}.

Life is sometimes like that. So is reading. Three different sources this morning-no, four if you count my re-read of Psalm 13 from the previous morning-combined to be a perfect storm.

The writer of Our Daily Bread (August 14) wrote about not understanding when God is work or how.

Bob Goff wrote about God’s delays (p.273) which can be merely annoying, and some devastating. They cause us to wonder if God is even there and if He is good.

Another source-a book on HOPE-carries the same message as the others. Even though we cannot see or feel Him, He is always present and will help us through the darkest nights.

Then I re-read what is one of my favorite psalms-Psalm 13. The message of that psalm rings out loud and clear. But…you will have to wait until tomorrow for a fuller explanation. 🙂

All that to say, God made His point this morning. No matter whether He looks like it or not; no matter whether I feel like it or not; no matter how dark it seems; and no matter how dense the cloud cover, God is there. In that I can place my trust.

“Father, whether it appears to be so or not, You are there. Help me to trust You in the dark and in the clouds.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 23

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

I won’t lie. I like noise.

Most of the time.

I love music. Certain genres, that is. I almost always have music on. Working out. Ear buds in. Cutting grass. Ear buds in. Driving somewhere. Spotify playlist on.

There are times I want/need silence though. When I’m having my Encounter Time, I may have a song running through my head but I want it quiet. When I’m studying, unless it’s classical with absolutely NO singers. When I’m riding my bike. NO ear buds. That is way too dangerous since I need to hear oncoming traffic behind me. I also notice I can’t multi-task. Turn off the TV or the music if you want to have a serious discussion with me. I’m too distracted. My daughter, Tami, wore a t-shirt yesterday that had two words on it: Be Still. Was that for me?

Consider this then: if I can’t hear people with all the noise going on in my life, how can I possibly hear God’s still small voice? It’s like a whisper in my soul. But if all I hear is noise, how can I hear Him?

I think that is one of the reasons I like it quiet in the mornings. I want to hear. That makes me wonder how much or if I am missing something when the music is playing. Matt Redman once wrote: “When the music fades/And all is stripped away/And I simply come…”

Am I missing out? Do I need to turn off and tune in? Makes me wonder.

“Father, I already know I will have a ‘noisy’ weekend. Help me to be open to changes You might want me to make. Help me to hear Your still, small voice.”

July 19

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I confess: I’ve never really been a fan of musicals.  My ideas have changed over time though. The first one I went to that I can remember was “Oklahoma!” Sadly, I wasn’t wise enough to keep my comments and opinions to myself and offended some people.  But over time I have changed. I realized it when we went to see The Greatest Showman featuring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and others. The theater manager told me I will have trouble not wanting to move my feet and get up a dance. She didn’t know me very well. I was stubborn enough to do neither (I definitely would not get up and dance. Making a fool of myself is not in my playbook).  The second and third time I watched it -consecutive nights no less- I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy the movie…although I still didn’t dance. 🙂

One of the most moving parts was the song “From Now On” which comes after P.T. (played by Jackman) realized how he had hurt his family and friends by his actions. It still amazes me how he was able to sing while running and not be out of breath. 🙂  Anyway, the song celebrates the joy of coming home.

Luke 15, the story of the loving father and his wandering son, is a story of coming home. The cross is a story of an invitation to come home. Jesus dying on the cross because of His love for us and hatred of our sin, is a story of forgiveness and coming home.

It is actually an open invitation for all to come home. Perhaps you know someone who needs to know they can come home. Jesus is waiting for them. Maybe that person is you. Come home. The WELCOME mat is laid out.