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Friday Reflections (2-23-18)

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and a pretty severe case of it, in about 1991.  That means for the last 27 years I have slept with a strap around my head, and a mask that forced air up my nostrils.  This forced air keeps my air passages open, and doesn’t allow me to stop breathing.  With that to allow me to continue to sleep, I sleep really, really well.  Although it is not limited to overweight people, sleep apnea is pretty common for those that are.  Recently, I have been asked if I have tried to sleep without my c-pap machine, since I have lost so much weight.  No, I haven’t; and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I will!  You see, I have become so used to wearing that cumbersome mask and headgear, I don’t know that I could sleep without it.  You become so accustomed to doing something, you don’t function without it.

Routine and habit are two very important words to me.  I do much better at everything, if I can get into a routine.  From the time I get up, to the time I go to bed — I really sort of like being on a schedule, and I don’t function as well when my schedule gets out of sorts.

Having said all that, let me say that I have been “out of sorts” for the whole month of February.  My office at the church building has been enlarged to the point, that I get everything that I need in one place.  I told one of my elders, Ken Thomas, that this office has become the perfect “man-cave” for me.  If I were to design what I wanted for “MY” space, it would look a whole lot like this new office does (and I hope to have some pictures on here within the next couple of weeks).  But, it is not quite finished yet, and until it gets finished — I am going to continue to struggle functioning as I know that I need to.

It all started the last week of January, when I rearranged my morning schedule.  Instead of going to the gym just any time during the day, I started scheduling to go at 6:30 every morning.  I need, for my health’s sake, what I do at the gym; and needed to get it a steady rotation in my life. My goal is 5 days a week, and I am averaging about 4.  But, for today’s discussion — that change disrupted my mornings (most notably, the time that I wrote this blog).

But it did not intensify the changes until Friday morning, February 2.

That morning, I started “unloading” the office — books, desks, papers, computers, files, coffee pot, etc. — everything!  Two rooms had to be done, and they were completed on Saturday morning about 11:00.  Sunday, February 4, I left for Jackson, Tennessee; to attend the Freed Hardeman University Bible Lectures.  That Monday, Jimco construction started the remodeling project, with the intent to have it finished by Friday afternoon.  Well, I got back Thursday evening, and Friday they were still working, and Saturday, and Monday!  Well, Monday the were completed inside enough that I could start moving my books and over essential back into the office — enough, that I actually taught my Tuesday Bible class in the office.  But having all the stuff in the office is not having everything where you can find it and use it.  The whole week of February 12-16, I was in the process of organizing everything.  If you know me very well, I can get pretty obsessive about that kind of thing.  It was beginning to take shape, looking like it could be used.

This past week, February 19-23, I have been bringing books, file cabinets and miscellaneous items from home to put in the office.  That schedule was disrupted by a trip on Tuesday to Joplin.  I went to the “Preaching and Teaching Conference” at Ozark Christian College with Vance Eubanks (Senior Pastor at Prairie Grove Christian) and his brother-in-law (who is a translation missionary in New Guinea).  Had a wonderful trip, with lots of marvelous conversation, and heard two really outstanding speakers — Drew Moore (Be Strong and Trust) and David Rutherford (Be Strong and Obey).

Hopefully things are going to start settling down.  Just two more things to upset the apple cart:  (1) a trip to Florence, Alabama for the 50th Anniversary and alumni gathering for International Bible College (Heritage Christian University); and (2) start digging out the boxes in storage that have books, papers, and files in them.  About these two items, I have not been on campus of IBC (while it was in session), since about 1984.  I am really looking forward to attending this, and seeing friends that I have not seen in a long, long time.  As for the files, I might get through organizing them, some time this summer.

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In the last two days, I have received 3 new books (at least, new to me).  I am really excited about reading these books, so much so, that they have moved to the top of the “too read” stack.  In fact, I hope to have two of them

read within the next 10 days, and start writing reviews for them on this site.

First, and on top of the stack, is Karl Vaters’ new book Small Church Essentials.  In fact, this book is so new, that it has not be released yet.  I am on the launch team for the book, and I received a free copy early.  Let me be perfectly honest, all you had to do to be on the launch team was just ask.  I am thrilled to be able to do it, but anyone could have.  Vaters is someone that I really  enjoy reading.  He has done some really good work on his blog, PIVOT; and I know that this book is going to be really good.

Next, is a book that Vance Eubanks talked about on our trip, The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro.  Not only did Vance tell me about it, he gave me a copy of the book (two free books).  It is a book about developing a personal Bible study, that will help you grown and be more effective.  I have been looking for something that will help me to use my time wisely in the early morning hours (before going to the gym), and I hope that this will be the answer.  Want to do a review of this book from 2007 real soon.

The final book is by Steven J. Lawson, titled Famine in the Land.  This book is from 2003, and is about the compelling need for expository preaching.  I am a believer in expository preaching, and committed to getting better at my craft.  It is my plan to attend an intensive three day seminar in Conway with Dr. Lawson in August, and wanted to do some reading about his methods and mechanics.  This book has moved up in the stack, but it probably won’t get read until March, after I finish the February book on preaching (Why Johnny Can’t Preach).

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May the Lord answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.  May he send you help from the sanctuary and sustain you from Zion.  May he remember all your offering and accept your burnt offerings.  (Psalm 20:1-3, CSB)

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“I Know Which Way to Go”

One of the greatest inventions ever, as far as most men are concerned, is the “Global Positioning System”.  They may not even know why, except that it is another piece of technology that they get to play with.  I am not saying that women don’t use it, or appreciate it; in fact, they may appreciate more than men.  But the women know exactly why they appreciate it.

You see, the GPS has relieved men of one of the great weaknesses that we have always been accused — not stopping to ask directions!  The GPS will direct us to where we need to go, go ballistic if we make a wrong turn, and it will often tell you of detours, accidents, and road construction on the road ahead.  So, unless you refuse to pay for the upgrades, forget to turn it on and program the trip, or ignore what it says — you will never have to stop and ask directions again.

I don’t know what it is about asking directions that bothers men so much.  I guess it is the fact that when you stop and ask directions, you are having to admit that you have got yourself into a situation that you can’t handle.  On top of that, generally when you got to the point that we would stop and ask directions; you ended up having to stop again, to be sure that you were following the first directions correctly.  Men, it’s true, we just have this terrible condition that we won’t ask for help until there is no other choice!

I was reminded of that condition this morning, as in my morning reading from the Psalms, I noticed that several times the writer is going to God in prayer, and it seems that he really has no other options — he is down to his last option.  Now I KNOW he should have started with God, but it seems obvious, from some of these verses, that they didn’t do that.

Psalm 141:1, O Lord, I call to you, come quickly to me. …

Psalm 142:6, Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

Psalm 143:1, O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

Psalm 143:7, Answer me quickly, O Lord my spirit fails.  Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

So, one of the things that I took from the reading today (Psalm 140-145) is to stay in constant “contact” with God, always recognizing my constant need for His help.  I do not want to put in the position of thinking that He is all that I have left.  I want Him to be the starting point of every day, regardless of what my circumstances might be.

Now, if everything that has “some assembly required“, came with an app for my smart phone, telling me how to do the assembly … then I would not have to unfold some piece of paper with 5 different languages and a parts catalog.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, July 4, 2016; and is reposted here as a part of “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is my prayer that you are blessed by reading it.  Oh, by the way, since this written, I have found that youtube has assembly videos for many of the things that says “some assembly required”.  Bill)

“Sermon Design and Delivery” — Review

A tradition arose among the rural churches of North Alabama, that was in full operation when I preached in that area during the 1970’s.  It seemed as if every congregation scheduled a “gospel meeting” during the summer months, and scheduled it for the same week every year.  In fact, some of the churches called the summer meeting their “big” meeting.  Each church in the area had their own Sunday, and none tried to schedule for any other Sunday.  You always knew which churches were having meetings any particular week, because it was always the same every summer.  It was really a good idea, for the time, because you could generally expect visitors from other congregations to be in attendance.  Now, we don’t have “gospel” meetings (particularly during the summer), and, if we did, we would have great difficulty getting our own members to attend.

Another interesting facet to this tradition, was that each church wanted to get as “good” an evangelist as possible.  Of course, every church had their own definition of good, depending on their tastes in preaching.  But there was one preacher, that was seemingly always wanted, by almost every church — Tom Holland.  Tom had been raised in North Alabama, and probably preached as many week-long meetings during the summer, and weekend meetings during the school year; as any preacher among churches of Christ.  He was extremely hard to schedule, and it was a real coup for any church to have him on their schedule.  He was loved and appreciated by almost everyone — for his sweet and gentle spirit, being an excellent preacher, and being one of the founders and hosts of the all night “Diana Singing” in southern Tennessee.  If memory serves me correctly, his preaching was sort of a cross between the fiery evangelist and the smooth conversationalist.  He was very fluent, enunciated his words distinctly, was always well-prepared, and presented lessons that were always Biblically based.

It has always been interesting to me, the connection that I have had with Tom over the years.  My very first full-time local work was with the Cedar Grove church of Christ in Rogersville, Alabama.  That church was right on the Lauderdale county and Limestone county line, and it was the area where Tom had grown up.  I had not known that when I moved there, but Dan Holland, Tom’s nephew, became one of my very best friends in that church.  I preached the funeral of Noble Holland, Dan’s father, and Tom’s brother; and got closer to the family during that time.  About 4 years later after leaving North Alabama, I moved to west Texas to preach for the North Main church of Christ in Winters, Texas; and to work on a Masters degree in Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University.  What I found out, after moving to Winters, was Tom had preached at that same church while pursuing a Masters in Communication at ACU.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know which one of the two churches loved him the most.

As a part of my commitment to improve my preaching, I decided to read one book a month on the subject; beginning with Tom Holland’s Sermon Design and Delivery (1974, Holland Press, Henderson, Tennessee).  You see, not only was Tom Holland a great preacher, but he was also a good teacher of “Homiletics”.  This book is short (100 pages, 14 chapters) and attempts to cover the whole range of sermon preparation and presentation.  In the “Introduction” to the book, he explains what he is trying to do:

…One cannot make a homiletic mold and pour everyone into it.  Every preacher must find his own way to be effective in communicating God’s Word to men.  A sermon must grow out of the preacher’s knowledge of God’s Word, out of the depth of his conviction and out of the awareness of the acute spiritual needs of men.  However, it is advantageous to a preacher’s pulpit effectiveness if he understands the general principles which have recognized and recorded by effective preachers. …  (page 7).

What I would like to do in this short review is to tell you:  (1) what I liked about the book, (2) some problems I had with the book, and (3) my recommendations.

First, what I like about the book.  There are three or four items that stood out.  I like that the emphasis throughout the book is to “preach the word“.  Preaching is about relaying a message from and about God to men that need to hear it.  There is no better way of doing that, than by delivering a message based from the book that God has given us to reveal Himself and His ways.  I was also impressed by the breadth and range of the resources that Brother Holland used in this book.  His knowledge and research across the the various disciplines of communication, and the writings concerning the subject of preaching from various denominational groups is impressive.  His bibliography is pretty extensive, and left me with some titles on preaching that I would like to acquire for my collection of books on preaching.  It was also helpful to me, that Tom used examples to show the differences in types of sermons (subject, textual, and expository), and in how to develop a skeleton outline for a sermon.

Next, I need to address some of the problems I had with the book.  Let me say first, for me to criticize Tom Holland about the subject of preaching, is like a Little League shortstop telling the shortstop for the Yankees how to play the position.  On my best day, I am average at best.  But there are a couple of things that I need to say.  I am pretty sure that my copy of Sermon Design and Delivery is a first edition, and I don’t know if it has ever been updated — but, if it hasn’t, it really needs to be!  For example, chapter 13 is about the use of visual aids in preaching.  The visual aids that are discussed are chalkboards, painted chart sermons, flannel boards, and mimeographed handouts.  But, dating it even more than that, there is some terminology used, that is just not “politically correct” — and, I’m not sure that it was in 1974.  Another thing that struck me as unusual, Brother Holland is adamant in his opposition to someone using a “sermon outline” book to find a sermon late in the week to preach on Sunday.  I find that unusual, because one of his stated goals (to me personally) was to write a book of expository sermon outlines on all the books of the New Testament.  I just find those two ideas to be in opposition to each other.

Finally, would I recommend this book?  Yes, I would.  If you have been preaching for a while and have not thought about what you could do to improve in your craft, this book is a really good starting place.  I think I will create a file with a division for each one of the fourteen chapters; then as I read other volumes on preaching, things that I want to note and remember place in that file behind the appropriate subject.  If the book has been updated, or will be — I would recommend every beginning preacher to own and read this book.  They would be well served to see this overview on the subject of preaching.

I have always respected, appreciated, and loved Tom Holland; and I hope this review has done his volume justice.

My Week at the Freed Hardeman Lectures

February 4, immediately after the morning services, I left Prairie Grove and headed for west Tennessee.  About 7 hours later, I pulled into the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Jackson, Tennessee.  Jackson is about 25 miles north of Henderson, the home of Freed Hardeman University.  I suppose that the Bible Lectureship at FHU is one of the longest running, and largest, lectureship gatherings for members of the churches of Christ, east of the Mississippi river.  There are other lectureships that may be larger now, or have been larger in the past; but Freed Hardeman has combined longevity and attendance quite well.  This was the first lectureship at this school that I had attended since 1973.  I distinctly remember that year, as it was the winter before Max King and Gus Nichols debated on “Realized Eschatology” (although no one called it that in 1973) in Warren, Ohio the following summer.  Max King was on campus, and attended some of Gus Nichols’ sessions, where Brother Nichols was reviewing his book THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY.   The approaching debate, the controversy on campus, and the question of how any one could believe something like that — made it a very interesting week.

About an hour after I got there, my college roommate and good friend, Jerry Edwards arrived from his home in Kentucky.  I went down to the exercise room and did a couple of miles on the the treadmill, while Jerry unpacked.  We started visiting, and I think it was after 11 before we called it a night.  Jerry does mission work in India, make 2 or 3, 6 week trips a year over there; and these lectureships are important to him.  They furnish him the opportunity to network, and make contacts with those that might be interested in supporting the work that he does.  This is the second lectureship that we have attended together, and are considering another one this fall.

One of the highlights of the week, as far as I was concerned, was the opportunity each morning to have breakfast with Randy Baker.  Randy preached for 10 years at the Cedar Grove church of Christ in Rogersville, Alabama; and now serves as one of their elders.  If that sounds familiar, that is the very first church that I did full-time local work.  So for about an hour every morning, for 4 mornings, we got to visit about the people that we both knew and loved.

The lectureship was interesting, and gave me the opportunity to hear some speakers that I had never had the opportunity to hear before.  As with all these kinds of gatherings, I didn’t agree with everything that I heard, but I would never grow if the only people that I listened to were ones that I agreed with.  But saying that, I didn’t disagree with a lot that I heard; and was blessed by most of the speakers that I had chosen to attend their session.  Some of the speakers that I heard were:  Denny Petrillo, Kevin Moore, Kerry Williams, Jerrie Barber, Cecil May, Dan Chambers, Jeff Jenkins, and Dale Jenkins.  There were a host of others that I would have liked to hear, but for one reason or another, was not able.

Let me tell you a few of the things that I really enjoyed about the Freed Hardeman lectures, and will consider going back again.

#1. Because of the proximity of Henderson, Tennessee to Florence, Alabama; I was able to visit with several preachers that I knew from years at International Bible College.  Some were men that I had attended school with, and others were preachers from that had been in that area.  People like Jerry, Randy, Wayne Kilpatrick, Robert Hall, Ellis Coats, Philip Hines, Charles Thompson, Jess Carter, Matthew Morine, Danny Pettus, and Cecil May.  I probably have forgotten someone, but that happens at my age.  It was also good to see a booth from Heritage Christian University (formerly International Bible College), and visit with the men that were representing the school.  The end of this month, they are celebrating their 50th year, with their annual “alumni days” gathering and lectureship.  It is my intention to attend that, and it will be the first time that I have been on campus since I graduated.

#2. It was a pleasure to attend the two luncheons that I attended.  On Monday, I attended “The Friends of the Restoration Movement” luncheon, where Hugh Fulford spoke on the use of “Mass Media” in the Restoration Movement.  It was obvious that Brother Fulford had done some homework on how our brethren had used radio to reach people with the gospel.  Wednesday, I went to luncheon for the “Search” program, and Phil Sanders brought everyone up to date on the successes and expansion of that television ministry.  One of the things, that made this particular luncheon inviting was that Chris Lyons and Roger Russell attended.  Not too many years ago, Chris attended the North Street congregation in Fayetteville; and is friends with many people in this area.  Of course, Roger preaches in Van Buren, and his daughter, Ashley, attends where I preach.

#3. After having attended other lectureships, that had numbered in the thousands in past years, and see that the numbers had shrunk to an almost embarassing amount; it was good to see that there was still a good crowd at Freed Hardeman.  I don’t know what the difference is, except that maybe Freed Hardeman has not forgotten who it is that comes to their programs.

#4. I like that Freed Hardeman still publishes a “lectureship” book!  It has full manuscripts of almost all the lectures (and classes) that were presented, and will come in handy for future use.  It also gave me the opportunity to read some of the classes and lectures that I did not get to attend.  I bought one, and it will go into the church library — available for all to use.

After 25 years of not being able to go to these types of events, I am really enjoying the opportunity to learn, be challenged to think, and enjoy the fellowship.  Will I go back to Freed Hardeman next year?  I don’t know, but I am thinking about it.  Peace.

 

“God in the Old Testament”

Do you like the God of the Old Testament?  Now, I know that some of my acquaintances are sitting with a stunned look on their faces!  Wondering how I could even ask a question like that.  But it is a very real thought in the minds of some people, Christian people!

About four years ago, when our congregation worked its way through the Old Testament in “The Story”, the statement was made several times, “If the God of the Old Testament was the only One that I knew, I don’t think that I would like Him.”  Have you ever wrestled with that feeling?  It might have been while you were reading the Old Testament, or sitting in a Bible class.  I confess that growing up I believed that the God of the Old Testament was demanding, stern, judgmental, ready to punish for the slightest disobedience; and He changed into a loving, forgiving, understanding, grace-giving God in the New Testament.  It may have been because I knew very little about the Old Testament.  We were New Testament Christians, some just carried New Testaments to services, and many did not want to study anything but the New Testament Scripture and subjects.  I may have been the only one that ever thought that, but that was my perception and understanding from what I saw and heard.

The very first graduate course I took at Abilene Christian University, was Doctrinal Studies in the Old Testament taught by Dr. Tom Olbricht.  Looking back, I’m not quite sure what I expected; but it was not what I got.  In my mind, “doctrinal studies” would be learning how to make and defend doctrinal points from the Old Testament.  What it really was, was a class on the theology of the Old Testament — examining what we learn about God from the overall message.  First of all, he had us buy and read a book that he had written, He Loves Forever (not quite what I thought I would read for a class on the Old Testament study of doctrines).  Secondly, we started more than one class with the song, The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases — which I learned was based on Lamentations 3:22-26Everything we did in that class challenged some of my basic beliefs about the Old Testament.

Part of my reading in Psalms this morning, was Psalm 136.  I will not include the text in this devotional, but I will tell you that all 26 verses end with the phrase — His love endures forever (NIV).  You would be blessed to take the time to read the psalm, and, then, ponder and meditate over it.  I have used it several times as a responsive reading in the congregations where I preach.  In fact, thanks to Dr. Olbricht, every time that I read the Psalms, I am impressed with how much the steadfast love of the Lord is stressed — even in times of suffering, discipline, and doubt.

I would like to be able to tell you that all of the stories in the Old Testament make perfect sense to me, and that I can see the loving hand of God in all of them — but I can’t!  When I get to heaven, there are some questions that I would like to have explained.  BUT, I can tell you, that I now see that the God of the Old Testament was (and is) a loving, forgiving, understanding, grace-giving God — and that His love endures foreverPeace.

(This devotional first appeared on Facebook on July 1, 2016.  It has been updated, and posted on this site, as a part of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is my prayer that it is a blessing and encouragement to you.  Bill.)

“Freed Hardeman Lectureship — 2018”

About noon today, right after the morning assembly, I will be leaving for Jackson, Tennessee.  I will be staying in Jackson, while attending the annual Freed Hardeman Bible Lectureship.  The lectureship this year will be centered around I and II Timothy and Titus.  This will be the second Freed Hardeman lectures that I have ever attended, and the first one was 45 years ago.  I am looking forward to seeing friends that I have not seen in a long, long time.  It is exciting to think that I will be able to put a face, with people that I have just corresponded with through Facebook, and other social media platforms.  One of the things that I am really looking forward to is the “Friends of the Restoration” sessions on Monday morning.  There are going to be some men speaking that really have a great grasp of the history of the Stone-Campbell Movement.  I really enjoy attending these kind of events, much more that I did when I was younger.  It may be that I have (finally) matured, and recognize the need to keep the batteries charged and the blade sharp.  I want to thank Alan Bradley, Jack Scroggins, and Ken Thomas, the elders of the Prairie Grove church; for making this trip possible.

Said all of that to say, that as far as this blog is concerned, I will be out of pocket for most of the week (probably won’t post here again until Saturday).  It is my intention to post throughout the week on Twitter and Facebook, pictures and comments about my experiences during the week.  It is also my intention to do a full post on this blog about my experiences during the week, and an evaluation of the lecture.

I do request your prayers for my safety while traveling this week, and that the weather will stay “somewhat” good.  Bill.

“Mom’s Watching”

Mothers are special in a lot of different ways.  This morning I want to recognize the built-in radar system they all have.  It seems that they have this way of KNOWING when the kids are doing something that they shouldn’t.   Our oldest son would start confessing to everything he had ever done, if his mom looked at him with that “I know what you have been doing” look.  If he tried to hide it from her, by not telling the truth; she would know what he was doing.

Now, my mother didn’t just have eyes in the back of her head, she had them on both sides.  She could SEE everything!  I just knew that if I did anything wrong, she would catch me.  Of course, that usually did not stop me — but, it always seemed like I got caught.  I must confess, that I grew up with the idea that mom watched what I did — just to see if she could catch me doing something wrong.  As much as she caught me, that just had to be the truth.

Sadly, that thinking carried over into my view of God.  Preachers would talk about God “seeing” everything that I did, and that I could not hide my actions from God.  We would sing songs about the “all-seeing eye watching you“, and I just knew that God existed to catch me doing something that I shouldn’t.  That really shapes a warped view of God to build your life around.  Sadly, I think that many have turned away from God altogether, because this is the perception of God that they grew up believing.

When you get something ingrained into you like that, it is hard to get out.  This morning, I want to share some thoughts with you from Psalm 121:3-8 (NASB).

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
The Lord is watching me, watching me 24/7; not to catch me doing something wrong, but to protect me from falling.  He doesn’t relax, or leave me on my own — but He cares for me day and night.  Life gets a little simpler, knowing that when I am in need of help; I don’t have to explain to Him what is going on — He already knows!  Thank you, Lord, for caring about me!
Oh, by the way, I’m pretty sure that Mom took lessons from Him, because I know NOW, that is the reason she kept all her “eyes” on me.  Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook on June 30, 2016, and has been reposted here as a part of the “Psalms on Saturday” series. It is my prayer that you will find helpful and encouraging.  Bill)

 

“The Challenges of 2018”

“2017 is now past.  Learn from it, celebrate and honor it, but don’t focus on it.  It is gone.  Wholly embrace and boldly enter 2018 with expectations of new successes, greater personal growth, and special moments with family and friends that await you.”  (Richard Blackaby)

The first Hoot’s Musing for 2018 started with this quote on January 4, with an entry entitled “2017 in the Rear View Mirror.”  It was an entry about my desire to be a better disciple and preacher this year than last year.  My goal is to continue to grow, and not become stagnant in my life of faith, and my life in ministry.  This is the first report on how I am doing with the challenges that I presented to myself for 2018.  You, the readers of Hoot’s Musings are my accountability group, and each month I will report to you how I am doing — and I want you to hold my feet to the fire.

READING

My goal for 2018 is to read 78 books.  Now there is nothing magic about reading a certain number of books, except that it will be a continual challenge to use my time more wisely.  In the past I have used a lot of books in my study, but very seldom did I read that many books.  For example, right now I am teaching a Sunday morning Bible class on Satan and His Dark Kingdom; and there are 15 books that I am reading in conjunction for that class.  At the same time, I am preaching an expository series through the book of James, and there are 13 more books I am reading as a part of my preparation for that series of sermons.  It is not my intention to count any of those books as a part of the 78, as I want those books to be just for the joy of reading.

There are three books that I am reading daily (or in one case, weekly) that I will put on this list.  Each morning, I begin my day with some devotional reading from Psalms, and I am using two volumes to direct the thoughts of that reading:  Psalms for Living: “Daily Prayers, Wisdom, and Guidance” (Mark Lanier), and Prayer, Praise and Promises: “A Daily Walk Through the Psalms” (Warren W. Wiersbe).  Also, as a part of my desire to be a better preacher, I committed to read one book a month on preaching.  The first book I chose to read was One Year to Better Preaching: “52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills“, and I would think that it would be obvious that is a book that you read one chapter weekly.  So after one month, I am pleased with these books that will be a part of the whole year with me; and I am convinced that I will profit greatly from all of them.

To accomplish my goal of 78 books this year, I will need to average 6 1/2 books per month, and I am glad to report that I am a little ahead of schedule.  In the month of January I read 6 books, and have two more that I am about two-thirds of the way through.  The books that I have finished are:

  1. Book of Enoch“All about the Three Books of Enoch” — Dr. A. Nyland

     2. Captives of the Word — Louis and Bess Cochran

3. Praying for Sunday:  “You, Your Pastor, and the Next Sermon” — by Dr. Michael Fabarez

4. The Last Lecture — Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

5. Sermon Design and Delivery — Tom Holland

6. Alexander Campbell:  “The Man and His Mission” — Leroy Garrett and Louis Cochran

The two books that I have not completed yet are:

7. Nial’s Crossing:  “A Novel ( A Bill Maytubby and Hanna Bond Mystery) — Kris Lackey

8. The Blind Side — Michael Lewis

I will freely confess that three of those books are extremely short (less than 100 pages), but they were something that I wanted (and even, needed) to read.  The real challenge will be ahead, as I continue to attempt to do this on a regular basis.  I really believe that I will profit because of this effort, and ask for your encouragement in the process.

WRITING

The sermons on James are really good for me, and I hope that they are blessing others.  It is my prayer, that if the publisher finds them to be what he wants — that they will bless others for years to come.  I hope to have them finished by the end of April, and that I will be able to turn them over to him by then.  Writing a manuscript for a sermon has been really difficult for me, as I have never done that.  BUT, I believe that in developing the discipline to do that, will enhance my communication skills as a preacher.

I posted 10 times on this site during the month of January, and I would like to get that up to about 12 to 15.  In the last month I used two articles from another author (Bill Sherrill), three were from 2016 Facebook devotionals about Psalms, and five were new material from me (including one book review).  That ratio of articles may continue in the future, and hopefully it will be a blessing to you (the readers) and helpful to me.

PASTORAL MINISTRY

I have often said, I am not a pastor and don’t want to be called a pastor.  I am a preacher, that ministers at a local congregation; under the leadership of men called elders (shepherds, or overseers).  They should be responsible for more of the pastoring in this local church than I am.  But as a local minister, I am expected by God, and the people of this church, to be involved with, care about, and love the members of the Prairie Grove church.  I will never be as good as I should be, or even as good as I want to be.  I must constantly remind my, provoking to love and good words, to be more involved in a pastoral ministry with the church I serve.  Please pray that my efforts will be successful in this particular area.

HEALTH AND FITNESS

This is an area that I have added as a challenge for 2018.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, know that I had gastric bypass surgery on May 30, 2017.  It has been really successful for me, but, in a way, it has created some other problems.  I have lost some much weight, so rapidly; that I have lost a lot of muscle in the process.  On top of losing muscle, I have never been one to exercise — regularly, or even sporadically.  The last half of 2017, I really did well of walking on a regular basis (walked 230 miles in 77 days of walking).  But the walking dried up the last 2 – 2 1/2 months of the year; as the weather got colder, and the days shorter. My weight has been pretty static since about the 15th of October, only losing about 16 1/2 pounds.  Right after Christmas, I knew that I had to do something.  I thought about buying a couple of pieces of exercise equipment, but that just did not seem logical to the wife (or me), because I had no history of persistence in exercising.  So at the age of 67, I bought my first gym membership; and decided that I would work out on a regular basis for the first time in my life.  It was my goal to average going to the gym 4 to 5 times a week.  Monday – Wednesday – Friday, I would do lifting exercises to build some core strength back; and then on Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday, I would do a cardio workout.  Since January 2, the day I bought my membership, I have had 30 opportunities to work out, minus the 4 Sundays, as I had other obligations and responsibilities on that day.  In those 26 days, I have managed to go to the gym and exercise 19 days (73%).  I feel really good about that, and want to continue doing at least that well.  In my opinion, being in better condition physically, will be a part of improving as a preacher.

Weight – March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight – February 1, 2018 — 216 pounds

Richard Blackaby also said, and I quoted in the first entry of the year, “Warning!  If you don’t make any adjustments to your attitude, skills, or habits in 2017; you are destined to be exactly the same person with the same results in 2018!  Aim for more!”  That is my goal for the year 2018!  Pray for my efforts, in all the areas of endeavor!  Peace.

 

“Who Sits on Your Throne?”

Many of you have heard me talk about Basil Overton, and some of you have heard me mention him many times.  He was one of the teachers at International Bible College, and, in my opinion, he would have qualified for a Reader’s Digest entry into their “Most Unforgettable People” columns.  He had the unique ability to take the most complex subject, and break it down where almost anyone could understand it.  For years (and years) he wrote a column in the paper he edited (The World Evangelist), called Mule Musings.  He would take the habits of, or stories about, mules; and then make a spiritual application from them.  He was a brilliant and educated man, and I believe that he demonstrated that by being able to communicate with ALL people.  One of his memorable sayings was that “You had to be able to shuck the corn where the hogs could find it.”  The point of that would be, it didn’t really matter how much you knew, if you could not communicate it on a level where people understood — what you knew didn’t really matter!

Two of my favorite sayings (and again, you have probably heard these before) concerns people who have a little too high opinion of themselves.  He would say — “He has a problem with the perpendicular pronoun”, or “He is a self-made man, and worships his creator.”  Isn’t that a beautiful and simplistic description of a very real problem, that we, as humans, have.

Psalm 115 gives a very visual illustration of a problem that the nation of Israel faced:

But their idols are silver and gold,                                                                                                 made by human hands.                                                                                                                    They have mouths, but cannot speak,                                                                                            eyes, but cannot see.                                                                                                                          They have ears, but cannot hear,                                                                                                    noses, but cannot smell.                                                                                                                  They have hands, but cannot feel,                                                                                                   feet, but cannot walk.                                                                                                                         nor can they utter a sound with their throats.                                                                       Those who make them will be like them,                                                                                       and so will all who trust in them.                                                                                                (Psalm 115:4-8, NIV)

What a remarkable description of the futility, and the foolishness, of idolatry.  How ridiculous is it to worship a “god” that you made with your hands?  To think that something we designed and fashioned, could have been what created, sustains, and saves us!

Now, I am sure that for many of them — the idol was not the god, but was just representative of their god.  But, after time passed, the idol became the god.

You know that we still have that problem, don’t you?  The things that have been “created” by man, have become their “gods.”  It might be money, pleasure, sports, career, and the list could go on and on and on!  And again, these things are not the good, they become representative of the “god” that we have.  The “god” that we have … is … ourselves and what we want!  Their is the problem, we worship what we want!

Years ago, Kenneth Reed wrote a book entitled What Controls Your Life.  In the first chapter of that book, he explained that in each of our lives their was a throne; and whatever was most important to us would sit on that throne.  Each one of us needs to closely examine our life, and decide “Who Sits on our Throne”  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on June 28, 2016.  It is being re-posted here as a part of our series on the “Psalms”.  It is our prayer that it will be a blessing to you, and that you will grow closer to the Lord.   Bill)                                                                                                      

“Questions from the Shore”

(This is one of my favorite stories from the Gospels, and the author is one of my favorite preachers.  I grew up listening to Bill Sherrill preach, and really enjoy his thoughts from his weekly email.  I am glad that I have the opportunity to share them with you.  Hoot.)

It was early in the morning, just after daybreak, and the  morning breeze was just beginning to ripple the water of the lake. Not too far off shore, a group of men were in their boat. They had fished all night without success. On the shore stood a lone figure. He called to them inquiring about their catch, though he knew they had none. In words which must have stirred memories of another time, he said, “Cast your net out to the right side of the boat and you will get a catch.” As they struggled to bring in the huge catch, one spoke to another saying, “It is the Lord!”

Peter, who was always the one who rushed in where angels feared to tread, dove into the water and swam to shore. The rest followed, towing the overflowing net. On the shore, Jesus had prepared a fire and invited them to share a breakfast meal. Following the meal he turned to Peter and ask, “Do you love me?” Peter was already hurting because he had been so bold in word and so weak in courage at Jesus’ trial. His simple reply, “You know I love you,” twice answers the Lord’s questioning. The third time the question is asked, the reply is the same but we are told Peter’s feelings were hurt. What we miss in the English translation is the use of two different Greek words for love in the exchange. To use words perhaps a little more understandable, we would have Jesus ask “Do you love me with the highest love?” Peter then, no doubt remembering his failure to show such love under pressure, responds, “You know I care for you very much.” This play on words is used twice and then the third time Jesus lowers his level of commitment as he asks, “Are you sure you care for me very much?” It is to this lower challenge that Peter responds with renewed hurt. He has been trying to express his love without his usual bragging and Jesus, rather than accepting his humility, calls for him to be sure he even loves at that level.

We are not all that different from Peter, are we? We profess in word and song our undying love for the Savior, but often fail to exhibit it in times of testing. Were Jesus to call us to the shore might he say to us, not, “Do you love me,” but, “Are you sure you really care very much?” Forgive us Lord that our mouths too often out distance our actions!

Bill Sherrill
01.21.2018