Truth Telling

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October 6

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

There is one thing I am very passionate about. I preach it. I speak it. I counsel it. I’ve definitely said it more than once. I think Bob Goff’s quote by Nelson Mandela says it well:

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. (#279-p.329)

I have stated it another way countless times (just ask the folks of the church I pastor): “If you fail to forgive, you have become their slave. They own you.”

Sweet Comfort Band, an early iconic group of Contemporary Christian Music, recorded a song called Habit of Hate. I’ve recently begun listening to them again and had forgotten about that song. Here is a taste of the powerful lyrics: “Now you’re clenching your fist/And that crazed, evil passion begins/Now you’re waiting for you victim/Careful planning, getting even/And you strangle your love/When you strengthen your habit of hate.” (Album: Perfect Timing-1984)

They are right on the money. I have seen so many lives devastated-their own and those close to them-by someone’s hatred and refusal to forgive.  It is like they become another person.

I think Bob said it best in that same devotion:

When we become people who extend forgiveness, especially when it’s costly or hard, we’ll be well on our way to loving like Jesus. (Ibid)

May we all start loving like Jesus.

May I start loving like Jesus.

“Father, help me to love like Jesus. Help me to not be captive the destructive emotions that ruin me and those around me.”

If you want to hear the song, you can check it out here.

September 29

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Two nights ago I was doing a little purging while looking for some papers. As I was doing so, I ran across some pictures-pictures from days which seem so long ago. I was a lot heavier (I lifted weights regularly); I had a suit and tie on (gag); my beard had little to no gray (now it is almost all white/gray; Jo’s hair was permed and full; Tami was in college and “looked like” a professional; and Janna was in high school with short hair (she has beautiful, long hair now). I also found my high school report card from my Senior year. Let’s just say the two “A’s” (phys ed and driver’s ed) did not add credibility to my “you need to study” shtick to my girls.

Pictures are funny. They remind you of what was, often leaving one incredulous at the “was I really like that?” moment. “Did I really look like that?”

My recent bout with COVID (12/20-2/21) when I lost 48 pounds in about 3-4 weeks left me looking like a refugee from a concentration camp. My appearance changed drastically. I’m grateful that for the most part I’m back to looking like my normal (good-looking) self. 🙂

This whole thing came back to me when I read something Bob Goff wrote:

One thing we know for sure is that Jesus never cared about appearance…Jesus was more concerned about the experience than the appearance. He came to start a movement, not put on a display. He released His Spirit to spread love all over the world, and love doesn’t depend on people looking pretty. (#272-p.321)

After seeing myself at my worst during the COVID fight, I deleted that video. I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I looked.

I’m glad God doesn’t care what I look like. I look in the mirror and am appalled; He looks and calls me “His own.” And THAT is the greatest feeling in the world!

“Father, thank you that You call me Yours. Thank you for not being embarrassed about the way I look or linger on how I feel about myself.”

September 13

Monday, September 13th, 2021

Air Force veteran and current Indiana State Police officer, Ryan White, (also part of OVCF), spoke at the memorial on Labor Day for the 13 fallen soldiers in Afghanistan. I liked what Ryan said so I asked for a copy of his notes. Here is some of what he said:

“These men and women epitomized the definition of Duty, Sacrifice, and Heroism. I want to take a closer look at the meaning of those three words.

  1. Duty– The force of moral obligation.
  2. Sacrifice– An act of giving up something valuable for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
  3. Heroism– Conduct especially as exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end.

The word noble in that definition sure rings true when describing these young men and women. They were there to help evacuate Americans and Afghans from certain slaughter from the Taliban regime. What could possibly be more noble, than risking their lives for someone else’s? “

Ryan said more but those hold the weight. We are grateful for these men and women. But do you see Someone else who is pictured in those three words?

Here…let me help you…it begins with a J…ends in an S…and has a ESU in the middle.  The most heroic, sacrificial, and noble person who ever lived.

“Father, may I be like Jesus if ever called to be (outside of living a daily life for Him).”

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.

August 26

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

How do you see yourself? Perhaps a better question is “How does God see you?”

In Psalm 26:1-2 David writes these words: “Vindicate me, Lord, for I have walked in my integrity…Examine me, Lord, and put me to the test; Refine my mind and my heart.” That second verse really makes me stop and think. It seems to put to bed why we are tested. Examine…test…REFINE.

But then I read Proverbs 25 and two separate verses stood out to me. But rather than be disjointed, I see them as co-collaborators. “Like clouds and wind with rain is a person who boasts of his gifts falsely.” (v.14)  Verse 27 then says, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.”

Those verses go to motives. They go to arrogance. They go to thinking highly of oneself. What a good way to stop that type of thinking? If you said, “Examine…test…refine” then give yourself a virtual high five. You see, I may be looking at this the wrong way, but the way to avoid seeking one’s own glory; the way to avoid boasting about what one has or can do; is to continually take an honest look in the mirror-the mirror of God’s Word. Allow yourself to be examined, tested, and refined.

I know I need that.

“Father, Examine me. Test me. Refine me. Keep me from elevating myself in my own eyes.”

August 18

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Did you ever read something and not only did it stick with you, but so did a song? It happened to me this morning.

I’m preaching his week on Mark 8 so I was doing what I have been asking the folks to do: read Mark 8 during the week. Even though my sermon is all done and ready to go, I read a verse I know I have read countless times before, but this morning it stuck with me…as did a song.

The verse is verse 33. Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ and then when he rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to be crucified, Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purpose, but on man’s.”  OUCH

Here comes the song now: “I’ve got my mind set on you” by the late George Harrison of the Beatles.  I know…I’m weird. But a fun-loving weird! 🙂 🙂

But much deeper was the realization that what Jesus said to Peter could be said to me. Way too often I have “Bill’s agenda” in mind. Way more than I care to admit my mind and heart are divided. Sadly, I’m often more interested in doing things my way and having them to work out for my betterment, than I am saying, “God, I know You have a purpose for all of this. Help me to just submit to Your purpose(s).”

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for His own purpose…”

“Father, It’s Your purpose and Your agenda I need to submit to.”

June 28

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

I’m always skeptical when I hear someone say, “Jesus told me (fill in the blank)” or “God told me to do (ditto).” That is especially true when what they say Jesus or God told them to do is so far off base, so whacked, that I want to say, “No way! God would never ask you to do something so vile, so repulsive, so stupid, so hurtful to others.”

I’m not speaking of those-like the Muslims from 9/11- who say, “God (Allah) told them to hijack a plane and fly it into two towers and kill thousands.” There is a place for them alright, but it’s not with any vestal virgins.

I’m also not speaking of those who take an Uzi and open fire on a crowd of innocent people. Or the one who kidnaps another and tortures them to death.

No…that’s not God.  But we must also realize God does speak into our lives-through a still, small voice we hear in our heart/mind. He “speaks” to us through His Word, through circumstances, and other people. It is that latter one I want to focus on for a few moments.

What do you hear from others? Is it a voice of shame? A voice of condemnation? A voice of “you can’t do this or that”? A voice of “you’re nothing”? A voice telling you that you are worthless? A voice of insecurity?

If so, it is high time to change that tune, to change that voice speaking into your ear or your life.  I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We need to give the microphone to those who speak hope and joy into the world.” (p.250)

I would also add “those who speak hope and joy into your life.” We need to stop letting negative voices carry the megaphone. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus, not the dissenters or naysayers.

“Father, tune my ears to hear your voice.”

July 26

Monday, July 26th, 2021

I’ve often heard, and have said it as well, that a person needs to be careful who they surround themselves with. I don’t know how many times I heard my parents (especially my mom) and my pastor say, “Choose your friends wisely. They will often make or break you.” I have heard it as a leader. “Choose wisely those you surround yourself with. Your success or lack of it will often be determined by your close friends.”

So I was pretty picky when it came to who I hung around with. No one who drank or smoked was in my close circle of friends. That severely limited my friends to be honest. I did have friends who liked the same music I did. I also had friends who didn’t go to church. But even they were limited.

Come to think of it: I didn’t have many friends at all. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink so I could barf and waste my money. My friends in school were more like acquaintances, pals I walked with between classes and saw on the bus. Basketball was part of the reason for that as well. Not being a great student and trying to play sports at the same time limited my exposure to others outside of school. But if the truth be known, I took seriously the words I heard.

Words like my mom’s. Words like my pastor’s.

Words like I Cor. 15:33- “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (ESV)

Words like Pr.13:20- “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (NASB2020)

As the king told Indy after he chose the chalice that looked least kingly: “You have chosen wisely.” I want my life to be one of wise choices…in all areas. It just may start with who I gather around me.

“Father, Your words of wisdom are not to be dismissed lightly. You had a reason for telling us to choose wisely. May I continue to make wise choices in the people I hang around with.”

 

July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”

July 6

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Have you ever used or heard used the phrase: “He/she got a taste of their own medicine”? When that is used it’s not meant as a compliment. It is meant to be translated: “He/she got what they gave someone else.”

For example: judging. Often times we judge others with a much harsher eye than we do ourselves. But when we judge we need to be careful because very often it’ll come back on us. Like a monsoon or tidal wave. Matthew 7:1-5 is a perfect example of that.

But I want to look at it another way. Back on June 23rd I wrote a devotion about self-talk, i.e. what we say to ourselves about ourselves. I got a taste of my own medicine this past Saturday.

First, the backstory. Awhile back I wrote about taking my bike to the shop and getting the news that my frame was cracked. Not good. So since Trek is good for their word, I got a new frame free. Very good. The bike shop rebuilt my bike with some old and new components. One of them was a new cable. Over time a cable will stretch and needs adjusted. Usually around 100-200 miles. I’m past that and since I live over an hour away from the bike shop I thought I’d try to do it myself. My gears were slipping and making all kinds of chatter as well as shifting when they weren’t supposed to.

Two words describe my efforts: Epic. fail.

I watched a video. I had a voice call with the mechanic and I still couldn’t get it right. I was frustrated. Then the self-talk started. “Incompetent.” “Failure.” “Loser.” “Why can’t I use my hands like others?” I was able to get it somewhat right but not all the way. I will be taking it to a shop to get it right.

I defeated myself by putting myself down. Calling myself names.

Fortunately, that is not who I am in Christ. I am not incompetent; a failure; or a loser. Maybe I am unable to use my hands like others can, but in Christ I am His. And He has put His stamp of approval on me and given me something far greater than being able to repair a bike.  He calls me His.

“Father, thank you for the reassurance that Your thoughts about me are not dependent on what I can or cannot do.”

P.S. While I wasn’t able to get a complete adjustment, I found out I did okay on some of it. So I guess I wasn’t a total doofus. 🙂