“Why We Stayed” — A Review

The Summer of 1991 was the summer that my wife and I, jointly, made the decision that I was going to leave full time ministry.  It was a difficult decision, but it was one that we needed to make at the time.  Two difficult situations in a row had just worn us out.  Now, let me say here — they were two difficult situations, but even in difficult situations we had brothers and sisters that loved us, cared about us, and walked us through.  One of the situations we stayed through the difficulty, stayed until it was resolved, and for another year past that.  Even with problems, our brethren have always been better to us than we deserve.  So, leaving ministry was tough — but it was right, for a lot of different reasons.

For the next 25 years I worked in a wide variety of jobs, involving mostly sales and management.  The first 13 years I wandered through 5 jobs, and I spent nearly six years on one of them (gives you an idea of how difficult finding a good fit was).  The last 12 years, I was a sales representative for Arkansas Insulation.  Most of that time, I loved that job!  I loved getting up in the morning and going to work, enjoyed the people I worked with, and the customers that I called on.  Yeah, there were tough times, but it was the right place for me at the right time.  For 21 of those 25 years, I served as a bi-vocational minister — 15 years for one church, and 6 with another.  During that time, I didn’t attend preachers’ meetings, lectureships, workshops, or read any brotherhood periodicals.  That was quite a change for someone, that had an almost unhealthy interest in what was happening in our church fellowship.  You wanted to know what churches were looking for a preacher — call Bill, he knew (and could probably tell you who had been there, and why he left).  So for 25 years, I really didn’t know what was going on.  It really was sort of nice.

After retiring from Arkansas Insulation, I re-entered full time ministry in January, 2016.  I went to the first preachers’ meeting that I had been to in years (but, I still don’t make but 1 or 2 a year), still read only one brotherhood periodical (The Christian Chronicle), but through Facebook, and various chat boards on it, I know more about what is going on in our brotherhood that I need.  The spring of 2016, for one morning I attended the last of the “Tulsa Workshops”, and was astounded at the lack of attendance and interest.  Since that time I have attended 4 different lectureships at 4 different locations.  People ask me why I do that, and my stock answer is that I want to go somewhere that I know that I won’t agree with everyone.  Hearing people that I don’t agree with will make me study and think.  What I have found out, is that I don’t know if I FIT anywhere.  A couple of places I have been more comfortable than others, but still struggle with the things that I hear.

What bothers me about this is, I have been raised, nurtured, and educated in the churches of Christ; and I don’t know where I am part of the time.  I look at Northwest Arkansas, an isolated area from the rest of our fellowship; as we don’t have the fights, aggressiveness, name-calling, and problems between churches that other places seem to have.  Granted, historically, almost every church here has had there problems, and some seem to have the same problems over and over.  IF we could get all the members of other religious groups that have background in the churches of Christ to return, every congregation would have to, at least, double the size of their facilities to hold them.

So, Tuesday of this week, I received a book that I had ordered: WHY WE STAYED “Honesty and Hope in the Churches of Christ.”  Benjamin Williams, minister of the Glenpool (OK) church of Christ, edited this collection of 12 essays; detailing why these 12  writers  stayed with the churches of Christ, instead of leaving and going somewhere else.  The writers are:  Everett Ferguson, Jeremie Beller, Matthew Dowling, Steven C. Hunter, Grant B. Sullivan, Scott Elliott, Benjamin J. Williams, John Mark Hicks, Chris Altrock, Ron Highfield, John Wilson, and Chris Rosser.  In the introduction, Williams explains that his hope is that this book will fall midway between Leroy Brownlow’s Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ, and Flavil Yeakley’s Why They Left.  I hope that they achieve that, but I am afraid that the people that will read it (and talk about it) will be the ones that are looking for some false doctrine that they can expose.  I pray that I am wrong, but from what I see now in our fractured fellowship I doubt it.  Of the others, I think that most have not thought of leaving, and the ones that have left (or are considering it) are not interested in reading this.  I don’t like to be negative, but I am afraid that I am this time.

Wednesday night, I woke up about 12:45 A.M., wide awake — so I began to read this book, and drink a cup of decaf.  When I finally laid back down about 4:00, I had read all but the last 4 chapters.  I must admit that the chapter by John Mark Hicks, I read right before I went back to bed, and I was struggling to stay awake.  It is my intention to read it again tomorrow.

Let me begin with my one negative feeling about this book.  There were only about 5 of the names that I recognized, but after finishing the book today; I’m not sure that all of them have actually wrestled with leaving the churches of Christ.  That was the impression I got from the way their chapters came across.  It seems as if they were given an assignment, and they wrote an “essay” about the compelling reason they were given for staying.  Now, it did seem that there were some that appeared to have struggled with staying, but made the decision to not leave.

There are four chapters, that I want to mention, that really appealed to me.  The first one is chapter one “I Stayed for the Restoration Plea“, by Everett Ferguson.  According to the editor, Dr. Ferguson was interested in the project, but because of his age was not taking any new writing assignments.  But he suggested that if he were to write something, it would be very much like this chapter.  This was originally printed as “The Validity of the Restoration PrincipleMission (August,1973) 5-10.  If you are familiar with Dr. Ferguson, and his writings, you know that he is very precise, detailed, and logical.  You should expect nothing less from this chapter. Jeremie Beller’s chapter, “I Stayed for the Love of Scripture” was very good, and I would encourage every one to read it.  My favorite chapter, as far as the narrative, and the ability to weave a story, is Chris Altrock’s chapter titled “I Stayed for the Wedding.”  I don’t know Chris, but I am thoroughly impressed with the way that he wrote this chapter, and the emotion that he pulled out of me in the telling of his story.   The fourth chapter I want to mention is “I Stayed for the Light” by Ron Highfield.  This chapter appealed to me, because so much of his story parallels my own story (up until our college experiences).  There is one paragraph that begins on page 144, and then ends on page 145 — that every elder needs to read, and then ask their preacher if it is right.

I highly recommend this book. it was published March 25, 2018, so be one of the first to read it.  I would hope that you read it to be enlightened, educated, and informed.  It is my prayer that you don’t read it looking for something to use against someone.  I got my copy from Amazon, and it cost me $10.95, or you can get it on your Kindle for $5.99.  If you are concerned about the future of the churches of Christ, I would encourage you to read it.

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“The Life of Tom Holland” — A Review

September, 1972, crossing the Mississippi River into Memphis, I felt as if I was crossing the Jordan and leaving the Promised Land.  I had never been that far east, and for this guy from the hills of Arkansas, Memphis scared me to death.  As I traveled across Highway 72 in Northern Mississippi into Alabama, I felt more and more comfortable.  I didn’t know anyone in that part of the world, except Charles Coil; who had preached in a “Gospel Meeting” in my home town, and inspired me to move to Florence, Alabama and attend International Bible College.  Everything was going to be different, and even those things that were the same — had differences.

Alabama had preachers, that I had never heard of:  Gus Nichols, Jerry Humphries, Rod Tate, Albert Hill, Harvey Starling, David Underwood and others.  My eyes were opened to a whole new segment of a fellowship (that I had always been a part of) that I knew nothing about.  The following January (1973), I started preaching on Sundays at  the Loosier church of Christ in rural Lawrence County, Alabama.  While I was there, I started hearing a new name, Tom Holland, that everyone really loved as a preacher.  People would drive all over North Alabama to have the opportunity to hear him preach. Not only that, all the little rural churches wanted to have him come hold a meeting for them (and it was almost impossible to schedule him).  It was my opportunity to hear him on several occasions, and he was as fluid and smooth in the pulpit as anyone I every heard.  There were others that were great evangelistic motivators, but to listen to someone on a regular basis; for a long time, Tom Holland was the best I ever heard.

April of 1974, I accepted my first full time preaching assignment at the Cedar Grove church of Christ in Rogersville, Alabama.  When I moved there, I learned that Noble Holland (Tom’s brother) and Joe Romine had been the leaders in starting that congregation.  One of my best friends was Dan Holland, Noble’s son and Tom’s nephew.  In fact, I was sitting with Dan at the hospital in Decatur when the doctor told him that his father had passed away.  It was my privilege to officiate at the funeral, and to be intimidated that Tom was sitting in the audience.  During my time in that community, I became friends with Tom’s brother, George.  It was always my prayer, that our friendship could lead to George to start attending (again) the church at Cedar Grove; but, I am sorry to say, that it never happened.  In 1975, several of us went to Diana, Tennessee to attend the all night singing that Tom helped organize — what an outstanding time that was.  Then in December of 1981, I moved to Winters, Texas to preach for the North Main church (and to attend graduate school at Abilene Christian).  That just happened to be the very same church that Tom preached for, while he was attending graduate school at Abilene.  Some of our best friends in Winters are Charles and Jeannie Bahlman, and Tom Holland officiated at their wedding.  It is amazing how lives can intersect in such an unusual way.  Although I never was a student of Tom’s at Freed Hardeman or Lipscomb, I felt as if we had a relationship because of all those times that our paths had intersected at the same places at different times.

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to pick over a list of books from a preacher’s library, that because of health reasons he needed to sell.  There were a lot of books that I just jumped to have the opportunity to buy, and The Life of Tom Holland, written by Thomas H. Holland, Ph.D., was one of them.  I did not know that Tom had written an autobiography, and was really glad to have the opportunity to purchase it.  It is just a little intimidating to attempt to review a book for someone that you have so much respect for.  I’m sure that there are many men, my age and younger, that were interested in reading it, because he had been one of their instructors.  It was exciting for me to read, because of the places  and people that he talked about, that I knew from my time in those places.

This book has the subtitle The Audacity of an Autobiography, and I am sure that some would feel that way.  But as I read this book, I realized just how transparent Tom Holland was; in sharing some of the stories and incidents that he did.  The pain and the hurt that he carried for a number of years, and still carries, must have been very difficult to share.  It seems as if American men like for people to think that nothing bothers them, but we all know that is not true.  But, to willingly sit down and share stories that broke your heart and spirit, has to be hard.  I cannot find it in myself to be critical of the way that Tom handled any of those situations, because they were not my situation; and, because having the courage and strength to talk about them is more than most people (men) can do.

There are several things that I really liked about the book.  Obviously, I like the stories that he shared about the people that I knew in the Cedar Grove community, and the communities that surrounded it.  I found it entertaining to read at the end of the chapters, reading where he was when he wrote those chapters.  I also enjoyed the story of how he helped Pat Boone, and his future wife, Shirley, to get back together after they had broken up (and Tom was dating her).  One thing that I wished that he had done, is to tell more about his time with the church at Winters, Texas.  I know that it was only for two years, but I know how much he meant to so many of the people in that church — I would like to have heard more.

The one thing that stood out to me from the book, that I believe had to be both a blessing and a curse, was the work ethic that Tom Holland exhibited.  I’m not smart enough to read through the pages of the book, and to pinpoint psychologically what caused him to be motivated that way (but I’m sure that some have tried).  It was a blessing, because it is amazing what Tom Holland has accomplished.  How he taught, held meetings, wrote books, had rental properties, and a multitude of others things is beyond me.  He has left an abundance of material that preachers will value for years to come.  It also had to be a curse, because you cannot be obsessed with one thing; without something else suffering.

I’m glad that I have known Tom Holland (even as little personal contact as we have had).  I’m glad that I got to go through that list of books, and find that he has written this interesting story of his life.  I hope that everyone that has had the opportunity to know Tom, or know of him, will have the opportunity to read it.

 

The Challenge of 2018 — Part #3

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but since I am not an old dog — I can change the the way that I act, the habits that often control me, and the amount of things that I get accomplished.  Right about the first of the year, I was challenged bu this statement from Richard Blackaby, “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 was one of his first posts on Twitter this year, and I decided to make it a personal challenge.  I want to be different, to be better, at the end of 2018; than I was at the end of 2017.  It is my goal to continue to grow, to improve, and not be stagnant in life of faith and ministry.  You, the readers of Hoot’s Musings are my accountability group, and about the first of each month I will report on how I am doing, and I want you to hold my feet to the fire.

I believe that Satan will do everything that he can to disrupt the plans for growth and improvement in our Christian lives, and that includes using weakness that he perceives in our lives.  Unfortunately, I have several weaknesses, and he knows everyone of them.  So, not only am I asking you to hold me accountable, I am asking you to remember me in your daily prayers.

I have challenged myself to do, and be, better in 5 areas of my life: (1) reading, (2) writing, (3) preaching, (4) pastoral ministry; and (5) health and fitness.  Here is a report on how I have done.

READING

It is my desire to read 78 books this year, outside of the books that I use in the teaching and preaching that I am doing.  I understand that there is nothing magical about that number, except that it will be a continual challenge to use my time wisely.  The books that I am reading for this list; are books that I will read just for the joy of reading, or that will help me to improve in one of the areas that I have listed.  To be on schedule, I would have needed to complete 19 1/2 books by the end of March.  Well, I am a little behind schedule, as I have just got 19 complete.  I finished 7 books in March, and they are:

Signs and Wonders (A Harmony Novel! Book 3) — Philip Gulley (2003) 229 pages — the tales of Harmony, Indiana; through the eyes of the pastor of a small Quaker church, Sam Gardner.  It reminds me very much of Garrison Keillor, and his stories of  “News from Lake Wobegon” on the Prairie Home Companion radio show.  There are 8 volumes in this series.  I just happened to get this on sale from Amazon.  It is a series that I may go back to someday.

The Kind of Preaching That God Blesses — Stephen Lawson (2013) 128 pages — This short book contains 4 sermons, from 4 different locations, that all address the theme of preaching — AND they are all from the same text, I Corinthians 2:1-9.  I will be attending a preaching seminar in Conway, Arkansas in August, that Dr. Lawson will be teaching; and I wanted to get a flavor for the way that he approaches the subject.  I am really looking forward to that.

Small Church Essentials — Karl Vaters (2018) 256 pages — if you will go back and look at the topics for this blog in March, you will find a two-part review of this book.  Every preacher that works with a church of under 250 needs to read this book.

God is FOR REAL — Todd Burpo (2017) 247 pages — the March selection for the book club at church.  It is not a theological heavyweight, but I really do like the even-handed way that he approaches the chapters, and the practical applications that he comes up with.  I am not familiar with the first book from Burpo, I understand that there has been some push back on the subject matter.  Regardless, I found this book most interesting.

Noah Primeval (Chronicles of the Nephilim Book 1) — Brian Godawa (2011) 396 pages — a Biblical historical fiction, based upon an unusual interpretation of Genesis 6:4; and the story of Noah and his ark.  This is numbered as the first book in the series, but book 2 is actually a prequel to this volume,  If you are going to read the series, be sure to read book 2 first.  Trying to offer a description of the story and its characters, all I can say is just to imagine the story of Noah, and Lord of the Rings.  This is a very interesting read, and it will stretch the limits of your mind, imagination, and faith.

The Life of Tom Holland “The Sadness and the Gladness, The Trials and the Triumphs” — Thomas H. Holland, Ph.D. (2014) 229 pages — It is my intention to have a more complete review of this book for tomorrow’s post.   Come back then, and get my impressions of this book.

The Case for Easter “A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection” — Lee Strobel (1998) 95 pages — a very short book, about a really complex subject.  I was really impressed with this book, and the approach that he took in examining the evidence.  It was quite amazing to me, that the same arguments that he uses are ones that I have used in sermons defending the truthfulness of the bodily resurrection of the Messiah.  But, he did it such a masterful way, using scholars to defend the Biblical position (as he asked the questions in antagonistic way).  I will highly recommend this little short book to most anyone.

WRITING

I posted 16 times on this site during the month of March (6 more than February), and I am moving closer to reach my goal of having a new post every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  This past month, I wrote 7 new posts, 5 old posts in our “Psalms for Saturday,” 2 from Bill Sherrill, and 2 from Wes McAdams.  I really appreciate Bill and Wes allowing me to use their posts occasionally, and hopefully that will be about once a month.

PREACHING

Everything that I am doing, as far as these goals are concerned, are so that I can be a better local preacher.  It is my goal to read at least a book a month on preaching, and take the things that I learn — and implement them into my sermon preparation and delivery.  I don’t know if the content or the delivery are improving, but I feel as if the preparation is.  I never want to be satisfied with how I am doing, I always want to be and do better.

PASTORAL MINISTRY

As the local minister for the Prairie Grove church of Christ, I am expected by God, and the people of this good 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 myself of this, provoking myself to love and good works, to be involved (with our elders) in the pastoral care of this church.  In the month of March, we had lots of sickness and surgery, because of that I made 18 visits to the local hospitals in Fayetteville.

HEALTH AND FITNESS

My journey toward being healthy, and a healthy lifestyle, is a work in progress.  I’m sure that if my body could talk, it would want to know what is going on.  After 66 years of living a sedentary lifestyle, why has everything changed all of a sudden.  It is my goal to go to the local gym, 4 or 5 days a week.  Weekends have a tendency to be really busy for me, so I try to do all of this between Monday and Friday.  This past month, out of a possible 22 days, I went to the gym 18 times (and 2 days I was out of town).  In addition, I walked outside 3 evenings (7.72 miles total).  I am lifting more, and walking at a much faster pace.  It is my desire to continue to push myself, increasing the pace and that amount that I lift.  Now, I do understand that I am not as young as I used to be, so I will do my best not to over do it — but, I am going to push the envelope every day.

As far as my weight is concerned, I have stayed within a 5 pound range for the last 4 months.  But even though I weigh about the same, I can tell that some of the pounds have been rearranged (because of the time in the gym, I’m sure).  It is my intention to get really serious about taking off another 10 to 15 pounds.  Then I will being the serious part of maintaining that weight.  Please continue to remember me in your prayers!

 

“When My Love for Christ Grows Weak”

Bill Sherrill has always had the ability to touch the heartstrings of people, when he talks about the events of the last week of Jesus.  I can remember him preaching about Jesus being on the cross when I was 10-12 years old, and how touched I was by what he said.  I remember when he held a weekend meeting at the Farmington church of Christ, and the Sunday morning of the meeting; he preached about the crucifixion and how touched I was by what he said.  This particular email devotional again did that same thing, and I believe that you will be blessed by it.

We are nearing the Jewish Passover. It never comes that we are not all thinking about the death of the Christ. In just two weeks he will have faced the greatest trial of his earthly life. The cross looms on his mind now. Perhaps it always has but he showed little evidence of the horror he faces until now. For some time he has been attempting to prepare his Apostles for this event, but they have not been able to see it because they are continually expecting the physical kingdom. A spiritual kingdom is far from their ability to focus. After all they have been taught all their lives that the Messiah would sit on King David’s throne and restore power to Israel. Where would death fit into that story? No doubt this death was ever near to him in his mind. Now it is imminent! What has been a dread is now a reality as he and his disciples climb the hill to Gethsemane. Selecting Peter, James and John from the 11 he calls them to wait with him while he prays. His words are hauntingly tragic, but fail to be heard by deaf and sleep ears. “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” Mark 14:34.

Leaving them behind he pleads with his father, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me” – but even in his anguish the obedient son continues – “ yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36 What a picture of pain this cry evokes! It is no wonder John R. Wreford could pen the precious words, “When my love for Christ grows weak, when for deeper faith I seek, then in thought I turn to thee, Garden of Gethsemane.” If Jesus could face this terrible sacrifice, them surely I can face whatever causes me to struggle in my moment of weakness. Two lines later Wreford cries out with the Son, “When my love for man grows week, when for stronger faith I seek, Hill of Calvary! I go. to thy scenes of fear and woe.” When in our challenge of daily living with those less than likable we are tempted to turn from our task, we need only to consider the love for sinful man that led Jesus to that terrible death, and in shame, be restored to the love he evidenced in that heartbreaking sacrifice.

Time spent in the Garden and at the Cross will surely renew our faith and strength and we, like Wreford shout, “Then to life I turn again, learning all the worth of pain, learning all the might that lies in a full self-sacrifice.

I encourage you to spend much time in these next weeks reviewing the closing days of Jesus. Perhaps even regularly singing this old hymn. After all, those who are not moved to deeper faith and love by the Garden and the Cross are not likely to experience the unbridled joy when the Stone is Rolled away!

Bill Sherrill
03.18.2018

The Challenges of 2018 — Part #2

“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!”  Richard Blackaby posted that on Twitter about the first of the year, and it was something that I was already challenging myself with, and decided to take what he said to heart, and be different by the end of the year 2018.  It is my goal to continue to grow, and not become stagnant in my life of faith and ministry.  You, the readers of Hoot’s Musings are my accountability group, and about the first of each month I will report how I am doing, and I want you to hold my feet to the fire.

I believe that Satan will do everything that he can to disrupt plans for growth and improvement in our Christian lives, and that includes using “good” things to challenge our efforts.  February has been a good month, but it has proven difficult as far as staying on schedule and getting tasks accomplished.  5 days for the Freed Hardeman lectures, 1 day to the Preaching and Teaching Conference in Joplin, Missouri, 3 days for the Alumni Days at Heritage Christian University, and the turmoil of the remodeling of my office — played havoc with getting a lot of things done.  BUT, no excuses — when I do that, I am allowing myself to fall right into the snares of Satan.

I have challenged myself to do, and be, better in 5 areas of my life:  (1) reading, (2) writing, (3) preaching, (4) pastoral ministry, and (5) health and fitness.   Here’s my report on how I have done:

READING

As I have said before, it is my goal to read 78 books this year.  I recognize that there is nothing magical about reading a certain number of books, except that it will be a continual challenge to use my time more wisely.  It is not my intention to count books that I am using in preparing to teach and preach in this total, just the books that I read for the joy of reading.  To be on schedule, I would have needed to complete 13 books by the end of February (averaging 6 1/2 books a month).  Well, I am one book behind schedule, as I have only finished 12.

The books that I finished in February (and a couple were started in January) are:

Nial’s Crossing: A Novel (Bill Maytubby and Hannah Bond mystery series) — Kris Lackey (2017), 208 pages — A Chickasaw nation Lighthorse policeman and county deputy discover a body, and the investigation takes them all through south central Oklahoma.  It was a well-written book, and particularly fascinating to me because of the area of the country where it took place.

The Blind Side — Michael Lewis (2007), 352 pages — The story of a young man that was raised in unbelievable conditions in and deserted and forgotten housing project in Memphis, taken in by the Tuohy family, and was raised as one of their own.  I remember hearing about this as it happened, and seeing the movie that was adapted from this book — but this was the first time that I had read the book.  If you like good stories, and really like football; this book is for you.  It was a selection of our book club at the Prairie Grove church (and no, I did not choose it).

Lake Morality “The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series) — Dawn Lee McKenna (2018), 230 pages — The 8th book in this series, and I am ready for the next one to be out.  This series of stories takes place in the Appalachicola area of Florida (about 2 hours from where we vacation every year), and the series has grabbed hold of me.  So far, the language has been acceptable, and you don’t have couples jumping into bed every time that you turn the page.  The mysteries that the deputy, Lt. Maggie Redmond tackles have been good enough, and well enough written to keep me interested.

Enoch Primordial (Chronicles of the Nephilim Book 2) “The Prequel” — Brian Godawa (2012) 398 pages — Very interesting.  This is a Biblical, historical fictional based on a rather unusual interpretation on Genesis 6:4, and basing that interpretation on passages from “The Book of Enoch”.  If you have any interest in the story of the watchers, Nephilim, and interesting views and aspects of demons and angels; you will find this book compelling.  It is well written, and challenging — but it is still fiction, and that must always be remembered.  This is volume 2 in the series of 8; but it is a prequel and should be read first.

Haggard Hawk:  A Nathan Hawk Mystery — Douglas Watkinson (2017), 306 pages — Nathan Hawk is a English policeman that has been forced into retirement, and is about to go crazy in retirement — until, a neighbor (or two) is murdered.  It took some adjusting to go from books about Florida Oklahoma to merry old England, but it was really a good read.  Surprised at the end, about who the guilty party was — but that is the way that it is supposed to be.

Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers — T. David Gordon (2009), 112 pages — Gordon has been a professor and pastor for a number of years, and offers some very interesting insights into the dilemma confronting “churches” looking for someone to “preach”.  Look for a little fuller review on this book on Friday of this week.

WRITING

I posted 10 times on this site during the month of February, and my goal is to have a new post Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Saturday will continue to be Psalms for Saturday, Thursday I may share writings from other people that I read. Tuesdays and Fridays will new material, of one sort or the other.  There may be some other changes coming to the site, but we will have to wait and see.

PREACHING

Everything that I am doing, as far as these goals are concerned, are so that I can be a better preacher.  It is my continued aim to read at least a book a month on preaching.  To continue to read articles and blogs about preaching, and listen to preachers that are considered to be good at what they do.  For example, I want to Ozark Christian College on February 20 for one day of their “Preaching and Teaching Conference.”  It was my privilege to hear two really good preachers deliver messages from the book of Joshua.  I have enrolled in a 3 day seminar in August in Conway on “Expository Preaching”, taught by Dr. Stephen Lawson.  I never want to be satisfied with how I am doing, I always want to be and do better.

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 myself of this, provoking myself to love and good words, to be more involved in pastoral ministry with this church I serve. Please pray that my efforts will be successful in this particular area.

HEALTH AND FITNESS

My journey to be healthy is a work in progress.  Being out of town so much, really challenged my efforts to get to the gym as often as I wanted.  It is my state goal to be at the gym 4 or 5 days a week, but only on the weekdays (Monday thru Friday).  There were 20 days available for me to to in the month of February, but I was out of town 5 of those ( I actually went to the gym before we left for Joplin).  But I still made it 11 times, which is really not too bad as far as I am concerned.  I want to do better in March, and will do better in March.  It is my intention, as the weather warms up, to walk in the afternoon; beside going to the gym in the mornings.  We will see how that goes.  In my opinion, being in better condition physically, will be a big part of my improving as a preacher.

Weight – March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight – March 5, 2018 — 219 pounds

Please pray for my efforts, in all the areas of my endeavor!  Peace.

We Have a Sure HOPE

The Lord has been really good to me!  It has been my privilege and opportunity to hear some of the great Gospel preachers of the last 40 years.  There are all kinds of preachers, for all kind of situations — some are really good at one area, and others are better in other areas.  I’m sure that my list of great Gospel preachers would be different than some of my peers.  Preference of style, whether we know them, and (maybe) how they feel about us — influence our opinions.

This morning, I was reminded of one of those that I consider the best”gospel meeting” preachers that I ever had the opportunity to hear (and I have been blessed to hear a lot of them).  Harvey Starling would have to be in the top 2 or 3 in this area in my mind, and he would probably rather not be mentioned in that context.  Harvey always just wants to tell others about Jesus, and what He has done for them.  He really practiced the old saying of “hiding himself behind the cross of Jesus”, and endeared himself to many because of his heart and passion.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear (via Facebook) a recording of one of Harvey’s sermons — “How You Know You Are Going to Heaven” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFFCy7TKPpc&list=UUvEtn0t-Ptjb722OhXMFiEA&index=28).  After I was blessed by listening to it, I shared it in a couple of different places on Facebook — noting that it was a great sermon by a great preacher on a great subject.  After I did that, Harvey commented on one of the posts, that he was worried about how many of our brethren had real “HOPE”.

One of the passages that I read from the Psalms this morning was 147:11.  It says …the Lord delights in those who fear him who puts their hope in his unfailing loveOur confidence in having a heavenly home is because of God’s “unfailing love”, that was demonstrated for us at a cross on Calvary.  Going to heaven is because of what Jesus did!  We accept it, and respond to it; but the blood that was shed on that cross is what saves us.  I am afraid that for many, we feel our “hope” for salvation is based on what we know and do.  If that is true, is it any wonder that we have so many insecure and fearful people.  The “blessed assurance” that we can have is because of Jesus!  Thank you, Harvey, for reminding me of that.  Thank you, Jesus, for making our hope and assurance possible!

Harvey also endeared himself to his audiences, as at the end of the invitation song as he walked to the back of the auditorium, he would always say — “Brethren, let’s do all the good we can, to as many as we can, for as long as we can; and, brethren, let’s do no harm at all.”  Good advice for all of us  Peace.

 

(This was first posted on Facebook, July 5, 2016.  It has been updated, and reposted here as a part of our “Psalms for Saturdays”.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you, 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)                                                                                                      

“Doing What You Love, and Feeling Useful”

Friday, December 11, 2015 was my last official day to be an employee of Arkansas Insulation.  Oh, I went back a couple of times to work with the young lady that took my place — introducing her to the customers, sharing some of the things that I had learned about those customers, and giving her some tips on how to make the job easier.  It was my desire that she be successful at the job, and take good care of my customers.  But, I went off the payroll on that Friday.

Every once in a while, I will run into people (or they will contact me) and they will always ask “How do you like being retired?”  I had a pretty stock answer for that question — “I am old, bald, fat, and very happy!”  One of those four things is very important, two of them I can’t do a thing about, and the fourth one I am in the process of changing (and I am nearly through)

What I want you to know today is, that I did not retire from Arkansas Insulation to quit working!  But what I do now does not feel like work.  You see, I believe that the saying is true — Find something that you really enjoy doing, and you will never work another day in your life.  I am doing what I enjoy most in life — preaching for the Prairie Grove church of Christ!  I look forward to every day, the challenge of that day, with the prayer that I can do something good for the Lord that day.

This morning, I want to share two passages from Psalm 71, that have become a part of my daily prayers.

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
(Psalm 71:9, NIV)

As for me, I will always have hope;
        I will praise you more and more.
 
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
        of your saving acts all day long—
        though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
        I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
        and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
        do not forsake me, my God,
(Psalm 71:14-18, NIV)
Now, I know that the Lord will not forsake me.  My prayer is that I will not feel forsaken.  That I will feel useful, and  be able to share the story of God’s power, love, and salvation to another generation that is coming behind me.  I know that I have a lot less time in front of me, than I have behind me (and what is behind me passed quickly).  My prayer is that the Lord will help me to be fruitful, and useful, in that time.  Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook on June 8, 2016.  It has been updated and revised, and posted here as a part of our “Psalms on Saturday.”  It is my prayer that you will be blessed by it.  Bill)

 

“Who Moved My Pulpit?”

October 1st a new direction for this blog began.  Instead of trying to write a new entry 6 days a week, and then struggling to get it done and feeling guilty if I didn’t; I changed my schedule to writing 4 day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) a week.  Monday are to be devotionals from the devotional reading that I do; Wednesdays are used for devotionals, book reviews, theological or doctrinal teaching, etc.; Fridays have reflections on what is going on in my life, and the things that I have learned; and, on Saturday we have our “Psalms for Saturday“.

This morning I want to talk about, and briefly review, a book that I have read in the lst week. The book is:

Thom S. Rainer  Who Moved My Pulpit?  “Leading Change in the Church” 2016, B & H Publishing, Nashville, TN, 143 pages

Last Thursday morning, November 9th, as I was scanning through Twitter, I noticed there was a coupon for a FREE book. Well, those sort of things always catch my attention but to get this book; you had to take the coupon to a Lifeway Christian Bookstore.  I just happened to be headed in the direction of the nearest store, so I stopped by and picked up a free copy of Who Moved My Pulpit?.

Thom Rainer is a remarkable writer for any one that wants to understand how individual congregations (churches) function.  It seems to me that he knows more about the politics of a local church, the life cycles of local churches, and other related local church topics; than anyone that I have ever read.  He has written such books as I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Simple Church, Transformed Church, and many other titles.  This particular, short, volume is about leading change in the local church.  Anyone that has been in ministry for any length of time has either been in trouble for changing something (that wasn’t supposed to be changed), or has known of another minister that has been.  These changes could be from changing the order of services, changing the layout of the auditorium, the mission of that particular congregation, new carpet, all the way to more dramatic changes.

What Rainer does is this book is lay out a road map to navigate the change process; and the advice that he gives is very practical, and the examples that he uses are very real and to the point. The first chapter is introductory to why change can be difficult, and most every preacher will empathize with the story that is told in the chapter.  The second chapter is titled, “Five Kinds of Unmovable Church Members”, and as you read that you will be attaching names to the descriptions that he gives — because you will have known them all.

The next eight chapters are the road map that Rainer suggests that anyone trying to make a change (of any kind) in a local church follow.  The titles of the chapters will give you an idea of what he suggests, and may just prick your interest to the point of wanting to read the book.  They are as follows:

Stop …and Pray

Confront and Communicate a Sense of Urgency

Build an Eager Coalition

Become a Voice and Vision for Hope

Deal with People Issues

Move from an Inward Focus to an Outward Focus

Pick Low-Hanging Fruit

Implement and Consolidate Change

With the book only being 143 pages long, these chapters are not long and are full of information that will be valuable to the local preacher.

This book is written with those preachers that serve as “pastors” of a local church, and are recognized as the leader of the congregation.  Within the vast majority of churches of Christ, the preacher is not considered the pastor.  It is our understanding that local churches are to function with a plurality of elders (or overseers, or shepherds) that serve as the “leaders” of the local church.  I have noticed in the last few years, that there are those preachers in our fellowship that are beginning to call themselves “pastors”, but I am not one of them.  I am not the pastor of the Prairie Grove church, and do not want to be.  I am a minister, servant, of the Prairie Grove church, and I serve with our elders, as the minister of the Word, while they lead the congregation.  I have been called “pastor” many times; and most of the time (not always) I will reply that I am not the pastor, that I am the preacher.  The reason that I don’t do it every time, although I probably should, is that the most common reply is “same thing.”  But it really isn’t.

Over the years, the most common problem that I have seen in local churches of Christ, is that the elders don’t (won’t) lead, or facilitate change — so the preachers does it.  Honestly, most elders don’t have a problem with that, because it is one less thing that they have to do (and very few are full-time elders, and usually have busy lives with their jobs, family, etc.).  The problems usually arise when the preacher does something that one of them (elders), or a vocal church member, does not like.  Often that will lead to full-blown problems about who the boss really is, and will often lead to the preacher having to move (or worse moving, starting another church and dividing the one he left).

So, the question is — would I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  It has lots of valuable information, that needs to be shared.  But, I would absolutely discourage any preacher (from the churches of Christ) to try and use the information in this book to manipulate his elders to get the changes that he wants.  What I would recommend is that he get extra copies, and share them with his elders.  They are the ones that need to recognize the need for change when it arises.  They need to be the ones that have a dream for the future of their congregation.  The elders need to recognize that they we can’t always keep doing what we are doing, because it is not working.  They need to lead the congregation to a more outward focus.  They need to know the road map of how to make that happen.  As preachers, we can support them by our preaching of the Word, as they lead God’s people to be what God wants them to be.

On a scale of 10, I would give this about an 8.  I hope that you have found this to be of interest.  Look for more reviews in the coming weeks.

Bill