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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 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.

November 8

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

I hope to answer Ryan’s comment on yesterday’s post tomorrow. I had planned it for today but something else is on my mind. (And my other mind would be upset if I didn’t write this).

A dubious anniversary.

That is what I would call it. Usually anniversaries are celebratory occasions. We call them birthdays. We call them golden and silver (speaking of weddings. Fun fact: Jo and I will celebrate, Lord willing, #50 this coming June 16th).  We call them holidays. All days or moments of celebration. A highlight. A star.

So why do I write “a dubious anniversary?”

Yesterday, my daughter, Tami, texted me early in the morning to tell me I had an anniversary. More specifically, her memory feed on FB said it was the 6th year anniversary of my hit-n-run accident. Not me hitting and running, but someone using me as their personal practice dummy by using the mirror of their SUV to see if they could hit me and put me down. They succeeded. (Yay for me). Then I laid on the road watching him drive on, not even slowing down or using a brake light. November 7, 2016 around 1:15 in the afternoon. Clear day. Sun was out. Bright clothes. Day ruined. A trip to the ER. It was followed by a couple of weeks of pain and a huge hematoma on my left hip. A trip to a clinic about a week or so later due to a swollen leg. Gradual healing.

The first time out riding after that I was very cognizant (translated: highly alert) of every vehicle that went by me. Still am to this day. In the summer of ’17 I was buzzed by a car and when I stretched my arms as if to say, “Why?” he made a not so nice gesture out of his window. Yeah…it was on purpose. It happened a year or so later when a Jeep got real close, gestured and sped along. But it wasn’t so funny when two days later I was coming on an intersection, saw that same Jeep, pointed and he took off like a “bat out of you-know-where.” (Sorry for the rabbit trail).  Anyway, that first ride past where it happened, I rejoiced and prayed a prayer of thanks. Even to this day, I remember it when I ride past it.

It is a dubious anniversary. But it was also an awakening time. A realization that my life could been snuffed out that quickly. A spiritual awakening that began that day, was reinforced 3 months later when I went over the handlebars while going downhill (I still don’t remember what happened).  I broke my collarbone, 3 ribs, and split my helmet in 3 places.  That accident was like the exclamation point on the spiritual awakening which had begun on November 7.  It climaxed in spiritual awareness, repentance from drifting and taking things for granted, relaxing boundaries, and a new appreciation for life.

It is a dubious anniversary, but one I look back on with gratitude. My life was spared. A 16 pound bike with a 205 pound rider has very little chance against a 3000 pound machine at 60 mph.  That is simply no contest.

More importantly though, God used it to say, “Wake up Bill! You are relying to much upon yourself.”

“Thank  you Father, for your gracious heart toward me. For the lessons taught (and hopefully learned) I thank you. Take whatever days I have left and let me use them wisely for You.”

November 3

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

I’d like to continue with my devotional thought from yesterday’s devotion.

Have you ever had tinnitus? It is a ringing in the ears, a very unpleasant sound. It hinders hearing.

Have you ever had too much wax in your ear, so much so that it weighs against your ear drum? Not only does it have a physical side effect (vertigo) it also makes it hard to hear. Been there done that.

Have you ever felt like you were underwater and all you could hear was a sound like a seashell against your ear? It makes it hard to hear.

Have you ever been wearing headphones and found people talking to you and you either had no clue or could not make out what they were saying?

I have described some common, sometimes everyday occurrences. All of them affect our hearing. Okay, let’s move it into another realm.

Each day you read, watch, listen, or “veg out” to the news. Hour after hour of the same old garbage. This or that politician is off the rails. This or that legislation is good or bad. This or that country is considering going to war.

There is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on in the world. We can’t hide our heads in the sand. But the more we listen, the louder the voices get. Meanwhile, the one who has a steady diet of this nonsense sinks deeper and deeper into despair. As I said, I’m not opposed to knowing what is going on in the world, but enough is enough. There comes a point in time where we have to shut down the voices clamoring for our attention, stop, and listen to another voice.

It is the voice of the Father saying, “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice.” The question that comes up and needs answered is “How can I hear His voice if I’m not listening? And how can I hear if I’m listening too much to others?”

In a noisy world, we need to shut down the distractions and the steady diet of outside noise and take time to hear the voice of the Father.

Shut off the news. Silence the ringing in the ears of annoying claptrap. Hear the voice of the Shepherd calling you to Him.

November 1

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

When people choose to serve God and make a difference, they often think it means doing something big. I can remember watching a movie many moons ago that was about a man who felt his call to follow God would involve something great or grand.  One example was that he dreamed of being a “Billy Graham type” evangelist.  He eventually found out that doing what God wanted sometimes is in the small things. (I think the movie was Kevin Can Wait but I’m not sure).

It is not unusual for us to feel that way. We equate big = successful. Not true.

Faithfully doing what God desires often means doing the small things well. “Faithful in little, faithful in much” is the way it goes.

Take a look at people in the Bible. David was a shepherd doing the shepherd-thing. When he was called he was doing the sheep thing. When he took down Goliath, he wasn’t seeking a big event. He was delivering cheese to his brothers as a messenger boy from his father. God found Gideon threshing grain in hiding out of fear of the Midianites. Elisha was plowing a field. Moses was tending sheep and minding his own business.

They were faithfully doing what they were supposed to be doing. Everyday mundane tasks. Just like us. Don’t wait around for some grand calling from God to go do something popular or great. That’s not saying you won’t.   But it is far more likely you and I will make a difference just by being available to God, by being faithful in our everyday life.

Faithful in little, faithful in much.  Don’t wait around for some grand action or calling. GO. DO. Let God deal with the results.

October 25

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022

Have you ever heard of Thomas Barnado? No? Well, I think it is time you did.

Thomas Barnado entered the London Hospital medical School in 1865, dreaming of life as a medical missionary in China. Barnado soon discovered a desperate need in his own front yard-the many homeless children living and dying in the streets of London. Barnado determined to do something about this horrendous situation. Developing homes for destitute children in London’s east end, Barnado rescued some 60,000 boys and girls from poverty and possible death. Theologian and pastor John Stott said, “Today we might call him the patron saint of street kids.”

Barnado is obviously an example of someone who put feet to his faith.

But what gets to me even more is who the recipients of his faith in action were. Children.  He became a person of refuge, one who sets up place of refuge for children.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote, “Friendship is a sheltering tree.” I spent time yesterday with a friend. We rode 17 miles on our bikes, mostly talking. (As Jo would say, “Imagine that.”)  He was gracious to slow down his pace for this old man (he is 47…I am not). 🙂 And then when a hill loomed in front of us we went for a short bit then he graciously turned around when I told him I’d had enough.  There is still a definite lack of strength after the back surgery. Maybe another day, another time, but yesterday was not that day or that time. 🙂  I told him it was the fist time, except when I rode with him a little over a month ago, that I have ridden with another person is easily two years.

I miss the friendship. It has continued but distance prevents a more constant contact. I miss the conversation. I miss the camaraderie.  He’s doing well in many areas of his life. Other than excelling in his walk with Jesus, he is really doing super at being a sheltering tree.

How about you? Are you someone’s sheltering tree?