Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an up and down day. Weather cooperated, had a lot of people gone or sick, had some brand new guests in worship, people got engaged in the music it just took them a while, I traveled north last night to be at an early meeting and there was fear of bad weather up here and had some very good conversations at church yesterday.

This was the 4th in the series "Breaking Bondages". We looked at the bondage of 'bitterness and unforgiveness' and examined I Corinthians 6:12-20; Hebrews 12:14-15; and Matthew 6:9-15. Bitterness, unforgiveness and the desire for revenge is everywhere. The Bible addresses it often and the world seems to glorify it. Think of how many movies, or even TV shows, are about seeking revenge. In these movies they make a hero out of the person seeking and enacting revenge. In real life there is nothing heroic about bitterness, unforgiveness or revenge.

We must recognize that God emphatically says it is wrong. Don't believe it, read Matthew 6:9-15 and Hebrews 12:14-15. Why do we so often ignore this? We must recognize what bitterness/unforgiveness does to us. It devastates you spiritually, how can you embrace God and his will while clutching your bitterness? It will divide the church. It is impossible to work together toward a vision for the church while harboring bitterness? It will defile your relationships. All of your relationships not just with the person you are bitter toward. You can ruin your marriage with bitterness toward someone else, and the same for any of your relationships. It will discourage your emotionally. It will chip away at you and impact how you see and feel about everyone including yourself. It will destroy you physically. Medically bitterness has been linked to many physical problems, not the least of which is ulcers and cardiac disorders. We must recognize that God has a better plan. Receiving, giving and living in forgiveness is God's will for you and your life.

Healing is possible. God offers forgiveness. God provides healing. God will give you freedom through a release from this bondage. True forgiveness is hard to extend because it demands that people let go of something they value. They must give up pride, or a sense of justice or the desire for revenge. Look at the sacrifice Christ made for your forgiveness. He gave everything, he gave himself and his life.

Is this an issue for you? Do you see/feel the impact? What will you do?

Remember, no matter how long you nurse a grudge it won't get better.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

I want to interrupt this series for a day. Well I am not going away from the love story, I am just posting something about the present and interrupting the telling of how we got here. Don't worry I will go back to the place I left you in the story.

After 35+ years I still love being with my wife. I mean I really love being with her, no matter where we are and what we are doing. Don't get me wrong there some things I still don't enjoy after all these years, such as shopping or watching the Bachelor. But I love her and being with her so there are times we go shopping together (she will tell you if she is seriously shopping she prefers that I don't come along) and I even watch some HGTV stuff with her.

This past week we were able to be together for 4 days away. It wasn't a vacation or getaway. It was a church conference. It was an outstanding conference and it was made even better because we shared it together. I know that is not always possible, but when it is I love it. You see we had nearly 6 hours of travel to and from the conference. That was 12 uninterrupted time together. We talked, we sang a little, we laughed, we dreamed and shared. She slept and read some while I drove, but we were together. I have learned not to take being together for granted. We also ate 3 meals a day together, that doesn't happen at home many days. We walked to and from the convention center together, there are many days at home we don't walk together. We sat in worship services together, we never get to do that at home, because she is not comfortable sitting beside me on the platform while I preach. Go figure.

Take time to be together when possible. There are enough things that will prevent it often, so when possible get together. Cherish the little things, that really aren't so little, such as sitting together in worship, taking a walk together, talking while you drive somewhere and enjoying a meal together.

Now I will return to the story, thanks for reading.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. Our music time in worship was okay, people were sporadic in their engagement during the music. Our attendance was good, not great but good. Jody and I made the decision to take off just after church, we were heading 6 hours south for a conference. Originally we were going to leave Sunday evening and go part way, but with the weather prediction we took off about 1pm. It was already snowing hard and the roads were slick. We made a good choice, we were out of the bad weather in an hour and it got much worse at home. After the snow a quarter inch of ice arrived and knocked out power in many places. More snow is on the way today. We made a very good choice, by the time we arrived at the city of our conference it was 60 degrees here.

It was the 3rd part of my series on "Breaking Bondages". This week was on the bondage of food. I know many people don't consider this a big one, but God called gluttony one of the seven deadly sins. I realize that most would not put it in the same category with our other areas of the series such as pornography, drugs, alcohol, bitterness, etc... But it is a really big deal, pun definitely intended.

I Corinthians 6:12-20 is our foundation for this series, we also looked at Matthew 5:6, and Proverbs 23:20-21.One stat I found was that 60% of professing Christians are overweight. Obesity is a major problem in the United States, in 1991 only 4 states had obesity rates as high as 15-19% in 2005 only 4 states were in that range all others were higher with many over 30%. We must recognize that this is a spiritual issue, it is clear in the Bible. We need to recognize the difference between need and greed in the area of food. We do not need near as much as eat, when we continue to stuff ourselves that is greed, the Bible calls it gluttony. Gluttony is an ugly word isn't it? One man excused himself saying he was not a glutton, just an explorer of food. We can laugh this one away, but it is still a big issue. A French proverb says, "A glutton is one who digs his grave with his teeth." There are many dangers with this area of bondage. Physically is the most obvious, not just being overweight but eating disorders create many serious physical issues. Emotionally many struggle with this area and it crushes their self esteem and relationships. Spiritually we have trouble justifying our behavior while trying to be obedient to Christ in other areas. Economically we suffer with the amount of food we eat and how often we eat out.

Healing is possible. You can control your desires for food, it may take some time but it can be done. Fasting can help return your focus to God and show you how important food has become to you. Remember, you are only to be mastered by Christ. We are to hunger and thrist for righteousness and for more of God. We wise about your eating, not just volume but also in what you eat. Pray about it. Prayer is powerful in healing this area of bondage. If you are praying about it you will have trouble ignoring it. Seek help, don't go it alone. Be accountable, to another person or group.

How are you doing in this area? Do you desire to change? What will you do and when will you begin?

(I have not been posting this past week. I was sick and am still getting over this virus. I will try to post a couple of times while I am at this conferenc if there is time. Thanks for checking in on my blog.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day, even though I was not feeling good at all. God did his thing and I did my best to stay out of the way. Maybe I should be feeling poor every Sunday. Our weather has started to warm up, which is encouraging to everyone. Our attendance, though not great, was up considerably from last Sunday. The beginning of our small groups has gotten off to a terrific start now in their third week.

The congregation seemed to get engaged in the music early in the service and not lose steam as we went along. That always helps as you get up to preach. Yesterday was the second in a series "Breaking Bondages". On the surface the two messages in this series were "out of order". Yesterday I basically introduced the whole conception of being bound by things that interfere with our relationship with Christ which would seem to be an intro message. Last week I dealt with the bondage of pornography, but I did in that order to get people's attention and then bring the focus back to the central issue of bondage in general.

We looked at I Corinthians 6:12-20 and Galatians 5:16-26. I reminded them of this fact, it is everywhere. Things that would steal your focus and commitment to Christ are everywhere. Anything that you allow to take away from your sacrificial devotion to following Christ is hurting your relationship with Christ. ANYTHING!!! Also, the Spirit to lead you in breaking bondages and following Christ is everywhere as well. Do you sense the Spirit on a daily, moment by moment or breath by breath basis? We can because the Holy Spirit provided, and available, for us all the time.

We must recognize our tendency to become bound to the wrong things. Anything that is contrary to following Christ is wrong and we need to avoid it, but we have a tendency to be bound by these things. We must recognize that God desires to free us and keep us free from bondage. This is a powerful realization. God wants you to be free from anything that is contrary to him and his will for your life. He loves you, he sent his son Jesus to die for your sins, he desperately wants you to be free. Satan will keep telling you that God doesn't care and can't do anything about whatever is binding you. Satan is a liar. When he lies he is speaking his native language, that is why he sounds so good as he lies. But remember, God loves you, he wants you to be free from this bondage and for you to choose to follow him.

Healing is possible. Did that register with you? Healing is possible. Therefore, crucify your desires that are in conflict with God's desires. You make the choice to do this, but God does the work of it. You need to keep submitting yourself, your family, your friends, your work, your desires, your dreams, and all that you are to Christ and his will. To have healing cry out to God. Not a casual mention of your need to be free, but a gut wrenching cry to God. Look at the Psalms to see this repeatedly, start with Psalm 130. Then confess whatever needs to be confessed. Don't be shy about this, God already knows so don't try to hide junk from him. Look at I John 1:9 for the power of confession. Then follow him and his will. In other words act on it. Live it out. Don't just make a mental agreement, starting living in the freedom that Christ makes available to you. This is not lip service, but really doing the work of following Christ. Be a disciple.

Do you have any areas of bondage? What are they? What are you going to do about them? Remember, healing is possible and God desperately wants you to be free.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

Next up was our first Christmas as husband and wife. We put up a little tree in our trailer. That Christmas was …one of the most memorable of our 36 as husband and wife. It was memorable since it was our first, but it was also memorable because it was a good Christmas. We were not rolling in money, but that has never been the most important issue about Christmas. We had put up a tree, it was a little tree considering how small the living space was in our trailer. The decorating was minimal given the space and the fact that we had not accumulated the amount of Christmas stuff that we now own. In fact I don’t remember anything about the decorations other than the tree.

We were in our little trailer. It was very cold outside and it was not real warm inside. But we were together and we were excited to share this Christmas. I learned something about Jody that Christmas and it has not changed to this day. She gets excited to give and receive presents. She loves seeing your face as you open something she chose for you. She also gets excited to find out what you chose for her. She gets a childlike look on her face as she opens a present. I love that look. When it is something that her grandkids have given her that look is multiplied. I learned that she really doesn’t like to wait to open presents. That has not changed one bit. This year was evidence of her anxiousness to open presents. We went to the city where two of our kids live for Christmas this year and because of schedules we were all getting together a couple of days before Christmas to exchange gifts and celebrate. As we were preparing to go on the trip, I got her present out that I had already wrapped. She got all excited and said we should open each other’s present right then. I said I assumed we would take them with us and open them with everyone. The look of disappointment was profound and humorous. I relented and we prepared to open the present we had gotten each other. (By the way I hit a home run with my present to her this year. I’m just sayin’.) I also learned at that first Christmas that Jody gets so excited about the presents that she can hardly help herself from looking for them ahead of time. I think I have had to hide presents more from her than I ever had to with the kids.

We sat down to open our presents. She was working as a nurse’s aide at a Nursing Home, I was a full-time student, playing basketball and working part-time so there were not large purchases made, but that didn’t matter. I don’t honestly remember a single present from that Christmas, but I remember that Christmas. We each chose what we gave with great care. We understood that each gift was truly a sacrifice. We believed that this was the first of many more Christmases. I remember that after opening our presents that we spent some time wondering about the future. Guessing where we would be and what we would be doing in 5 years, in 10 years, in 15 years. I don’t remember going much past 10 or 15 years. Not because we didn’t believe we would last that long, but just because the present was so real, everything so new, that trying to look that far ahead was nearly impossible. We were living moment to moment, hour to hour and day to day. That makes looking too far ahead seem like fantasy.

What we knew was that we loved each other. We were together. We were figuring this marriage thing out a day at a time. We were learning that the person we married wasn’t perfect, that is a big revelation. We were learning that we had a lot of flaws. We were learning what it means to depend on God. We were learning what it means to really love someone and be committed to them for life. We didn’t understand it all, but we were enjoying the journey.

A memorable Christmas to be sure, there have been others that stand out, but this will one will always be near the top of my Christmas memories, because it was the beginning of a fantastic ride. A big change was coming soon …

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was good in many ways, but very difficult as well. We were missing some of our worship and team and worship band. Our attendance was the lowest it has been for quite a while. It seemed that people did not engage well during the music. It was kind of hit and miss, a couple of songs they connected and a couple of them not at all. I always have trouble trying to figure that out. We had 5 inches, or so, of some come in on Saturday and I imagine some used that as an excuse. I suspect that the topic of my message kept a few away as well.

I began a new sermon series entitled "Breaking Bondages". Yesterday was called Porn Sunday. Hundreds of churches across the country, and more around the world, tackled this "elephant in the pew" yesterday. Pornography is major source of bondage for many, many people both in and out of the church. We used I Corinthians 6:12-20 as our scripture foundation. Porn is everywhere. World-wide it is a $57 billion industry and $12 billion in the United States. Daily pornographic search engine requests are 68 million. The average age of first internet pornographic exposure is 11 years old. (Think about some 9-13 year old children you know, so you can put a face to that statistic.)Of those admitting to accessing pornography at work 20% of men and 13% of women. (Women's use of pornography is growing rapidly.) I could go on but hopefully you get the picture.

We must recognize that pornography addiction can happen to anyone. If you think it can't happen to you are in trouble. Recognize that you are not strong enough to get over this on your own. Get help. We must quit saying and believing that a little porn is okay. We must be accountable, this is one of the best deterrents. Clean it up, make choices to remove the temptations. Quit blaming everything, and everyone, else and make some changes.

Healing is possible. You should only be mastered by Christ, I Corinthians 6:12. Not everything is good or beneficial, even in small doses. Recognize the value of your mind and body. I Corinthians 6:15 and 19. You are literally a temple of the Holy Spirit, don't take that for granted. Flee from sexual immorality, I Corinthians 6:18. Quit messing around in areas you know are tempting. Put filters on the computer, put the computer in an open area, block those channels on the TV and more. Be accountable, get with a group, or a trusted person, who will hold you accountable in the area. Get computer software that monitors your use and sends reports of questionable material to a couple of people. If you are married make sure your spouse is one of these people. Ask for forgiveness and help, from God first and from whomever else you may have hurt. Be in the Word and prayer. This will make a bigger difference than you can imagine. The Center for Bible Engagement discovered an incredible link between the level of Bible reading and immoral behavior. People who read the Bible up to 3 days a week have no significant difference in these behaviors. But when the reading increases to 4 or more days a week the story changes dramatically. The incidence of drunkenness decreased 49%, sex outside of marriage and pornography involvement decreased 51% and gambling decreased 43%.

How is your bondage in this area? What will you do to get free, or remain free? Will you help someone else?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

We were living in that trailer when we had to spend our first nights apart. It was Thanksgiving and …let me back up a little. Basketball season was underway. I had been practicing for quite a while and we had played a few games. I was dressing for both JV and Varsity games. So between taking a full load of classes, playing basketball and working part-time Jody and I were not seeing a lot of each other. So we were really looking forward to the Thanksgiving break. She had a couple of days off and I was going to have a break from basketball and classes. We were planning on going to her parents for Thanksgiving. All of those plans changed on Wednesday. I got word that I was being put on the travel team for the Varsity Thanksgiving tourney and the team was leaving on Wednesday afternoon. I did not think I was going on this trip, because nothing had been said in any of the practices leading up to this day.

When I got word that I was on the travel squad I only had a couple of hours before we left. I had to pack a bag and get a hold of Jody at work. I got a hold of Jody and broke the news to her. Not only was not going to be able to make the trip to her parents for Thanksgiving but we were about to spend our first night apart since the wedding. In fact it would be 3 or 4 nights. To put in perspective, remember that we had no cell phones and no internet with which to communicate. So I got on the team bus and headed off to the tourney in northeastern Indiana and Jody came home to our empty trailer. I guess the trailer wasn’t completely empty because we were dog sitting that weekend.

When we got to our destination, we checked into our hotel and then had a brief practice and shoot around in the gym. When I got back to the room I went out to a pay phone (raise your hand if you remember using a pay phone). I used a calling card and dialed the trailer. Jody answered and I discovered that Jody had been through quite the adventure. When she got home from work she decided she would go ahead and take off for her parents that night because a snow storm was headed that way. She packed and loaded the car, grabbed the dog and took off. The storm came in early and it took her an hour to go about 20 miles and it was getting worse with each mile. So she turned around came back to our trailer. When I talked with her she was already snowed in.

The next day we had a decent Thanksgiving meal and played a late game that we won. I found the pay phone and called Jody and then I felt terrible. While I had a pretty good meal, she was snowed in with the dog and ate a turkey pot pie. That was a tough night, it was even tougher for Jody. She said recently that if she wouldn’t have had the dog it would have been even worse. We won our game the next night, I made the call home and then on Saturday we lost in the championship. The bus ride home took forever, or so it seemed to me. It was well after midnight when we got back. I stepped off the bus, grabbed my bag and practically ran to our trailer. I wasn’t thinking about how tired I was, or how much snow we had, I just wanted to see my wife.

One thing that trip established was a tradition for us. That was that whenever one of us gone over night we talk on the phone. Now it is the cell phone, but even before that was available we called long distance because we wanted to hear each other’s voice. I still love hearing her voice. Email, facebook chats and texting are great, but none of them compares to hearing her voice.

Next up was our first Christmas as husband and wife. We put up a little tree in our trailer. That Christmas was …

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

Our trailer had some unique things about it to put it mildly. Such as …now remember this was a 1960 10’x50’ single wide mobile home. We were in a 3 street little trailer park on the then back edge of Olivet Nazarene College (University now) property known as “Trailerville”. The trailers were all very close together. We didn’t have an air conditioner so in the summer when our windows were open and our neighbor’s phone rang we would get up to answer ours. One of the most unique features of the trailer you noticed upon entering and that was the kitchen, since you were standing on the edge of it as you entered. The thing that stood out was the color of the countertops, fridge, stove and sink. The color was a bright (puke) aqua color. It was really difficult on the eyes. If you were around whenever we tried to bake anything in the oven it was quite the experience. I would not let Jody turn the stove on, the reason is that you had to light the oven every time you used it because the pilot light would not work. The method to light the oven was to light a match, turn the oven on, toss the lit match toward the gas, turn your face away quickly and then yell when the flames shot out and burned the hair off your hand. I am a relatively hairy person (with the exception of the top of head) and for the time we lived in that trailer I had no hair on the back of my right hand.

Another special feature of our trailer was that it leaned. It tilted away from the entrance. The result of this tilt was that you had to scoop water toward the drain whenever you took a bath or shower. Another impact of this tilt was that when you sat on the toilet your right shoulder would rest against the wall which kept you from having to hold on while doing your business.

I mentioned that the bedroom was small. We had a full size mattress (do they even make these any more?). You had to be on the bed to get anything out of the closet. Also, my feet hung over the end of the mattress and sometimes during the night I would unknowingly kick clothes off their hangers.

The windows were not energy efficient and in fact they didn’t really close tight at all. In the winter we taped plastic over the windows trying to stay warm and conserve as much heat as possible. One result of this was that you would hear the plastic moving as it tried to hold back the winter wind. You knew the plastic had failed when you began to notice the curtains moving with the wind. That winter I learned about something called heat tape. It is a wonderful thing that you wrap around water pipes and plug in to keep some heat on the pipes and prevent them from freezing. I learned about them when our pipes froze. As I crawled under the trailer I discovered that we already had heat tape on the water pipes, but not being aware of this clever invention I had not plugged it in. Amazingly when it was plugged in the heat tape worked wonderfully.

But with all of the uniqueness of the trailer it is still one of the most endearing places we have ever lived. Because it was our first place. Because it was ours. Because we began our married life in that trailer and as we are moving toward anniversary number 36, I realize that we learned a lot in that little trailer. I am not interested in going back there, unless it was sitting on a lot by a lake then I would consider it. But I do think of it often and most of the memories are very good ones. We were living in that trailer when we had to spend our first nights apart. It was Thanksgiving and …