“Paul’s Prayer … and Me”

God has been really good to me, blessing me more than I could ever deserve.  Over the last 45 years, I have preached full-time for 18 years, and part-time for 21.  In the 18 years of full-time preaching, I have preached for 5 churches:  Cedar Grove church of Christ in Rogersville, Alabama; Huntsville church of Christ in Huntsville, Arkansas; North Main church of Christ in Winters, Texas; Farmington church of Christ in Farmington, Arkansas; and, Prairie Grove church of Christ, in Prairie Grove, Arkansas.  I really have no complaints about the way that I was treated; because, they treated me better than I deserved.  There are things at all of those churches, that I look back and wish that I had done differently, but there are strong and joyous memories of the people at all those different places.

What is really interesting to me, is that there are people from all of these churches that read this blog on a regular basis — even those churches that it has been 35-40 years since I preached at “their” congregation.  I don’t really believe that it is because I’m special, I believe that it is because Christian love and fellowship is special.  We are bound together because of what Jesus did, and who we are in Him — and time does not deteriorate that bond.  Nearly every day, when I look at the pages where my blog has been linked to Facebook; I see the names of people from all those churches, that have read and “liked” the devotional thoughts for that day.  Every time I see one of those names, my heart swells with the joy of the memories that I have from all these different places.  I am so grateful for the opportunities that Jehovah God has given me, and for the joy that fills my heart as I remember all the people from those different places.

For the last two weeks, my early morning devotional reading has been the book of Philippians, and reading Paul’s letter has called all these thoughts to my mind.  As I have read the first chapter, about the joy Paul feels as he remembers, and prays for, the Philippian church; I cannot help but be drawn to my own memories of these churches.  But this morning, another thing came to my mind.  I want you to read carefully the following words from Paul:

My prayer for you is that you may have still more love — a love that is full of knowledge and wise insight.  I want you to be able to always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Christ.  I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God.  (Philippians 1:9-11, The New Testament in Modern English — J. B. Phillips)

I was reading Philippians this morning from Phillips, the 8th different translation I have read; and I will probably read from a couple of more, before I move on to Galatians.  But let me show you that same passage from the NIV and ESV, to give us a better look.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.  (NIV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God  (ESV)

The voice of God speaking through Scripture has a way of convicting you when your read with the “eyes of your heart open.”  I don’t always do that, but this morning I did — and as I thought about Paul’s relationship with the church at Philippi, and in particular this prayer — I knew that I needed to be praying this prayer for the churches where I have preached.  I need to be praying for the churches, and the people, that were so good to me and have brought me so much joy.

I would encourage every preacher to pray this prayer for the churches where they have preached.  I would encourage all Christians to pray this prayer for the church where they attend, and other churches where they have attended in the past.  May God help us all, to always think of other Christians with joy about the past, and anticipation for the future.  Peace.

“Joy in the Church?”

Several years ago, an acquaintance of mine was hired to be the preacher for a church with a reputation for firing their preacher.  In the process of hiring him, they had discussed this reputation, and he was convinced that there were lots of misunderstandings; and that they really wanted to change that reputation.  After he had been there for 3 or 4 weeks, one of the “pastors” from a neighboring church called, and invited him to have lunch.  Over lunch, the man ( a long time resident of the city) told him that he had known the last several preachers at the church; that there were some mean people at “his” church, that they would get mad at him, and would want to fire him.  He went on to say, that when that happened to call him; and he would be available to talk.

Over the years, the churches of Christ have developed a reputation of “fussin’ and fightin”, and, sadly, often that reputation has been deserved.  My next door neighbor in Florence, Alabama; had a couple of sayings about our brethren, that he often shared:  one was “We would rather fight, than fish;” and the other was, “We would fight at the drop of a hat, even if we had to drop the hat.”  A few years ago, I remember reading a history of the churches of Christ in two counties in my area, and nearly every local congregation has a split in their history.  It is amazing the things that we have argued, debated, and divided about and over.

We have cloaked our disagreements as “doctrinal disputes,” and then they have become “issues,” as we have obsessed with being RIGHT!  In our desire to go back to the Bible, and to do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible acts by Bible names — we have reached a point that we act and believe that if you don’t do it, like I believe and do it — YOU ARE WRONG!  Then we carried it to the next step, and reached the logical conclusion; if you are wrong, you are a heretic and lost!  I actually know one preacher that go so involved in one “issue,” that he withdrew fellowship from his own wife.  Interestingly, she prepared the meal for their family, but he would not eat with her!  Using a play on words from Scripture, we are a peculiar people.

For the last week, I have been reading the book of Philippians as my devotional reading.  Each morning I have read it from a different translation, and I have been reminded; that “our” churches are not the first ones to have this problem, and likely will not be the last.  As long as people are in churches, people are going to have problems; and they will fuss and fight with other people with problems.  I want you to notice a few passages from Philippians:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, (Philippians 1:27, NKJV)

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:1-4, NKJV)

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:15-16, NKJV)

It is my conviction, that all of those verses are not accidental — or teachings that they might need some day.  I am convinced there was a problem in the church in Philippi, and that it was not a “doctrinal” problem, it was a personal, or personality, problem.  Listen:

I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, …  (Philippians 4:2-3, NKJV)

It appears to me that these two women, who appear to be strong, committed, and workers; have gotten crossways with each other.  Their struggle with each other has robbed this local church of the joy that it should have.  Paul, in my opinion, doesn’t write to the Philippian church about joy, because they have a lot of joy; but because division in the church is robbing them of the joy that they should have.

Personally, I feel this problem is still prevalent in local churches today!  It seems to me that most of the problems and divisions, are not really “doctrinal” problems.  Conflict arises because of personality, and feelings of authority and power — then a point of doctrine, or the interpretation of a passage, becomes the point of contention between the “warring parties.”

It is my conviction, that immediately after telling the brethren to help these two women, he tells them how to approach the problem in Philippians 4:4-6.  Look at what he says:

1) Rejoice in the Lord always — find the joy that you have lost, reclaim it, and approach them with the joy that God has given you.  Not joy, because they are fighting and fussing; but help them to see the joy that there is in Jesus.

2) Let your gentleness be known to all men — approach all troublesome situations with gentleness.  Treat these individuals like you would want to be treated, and let everyone see that you are using a gentle approach to everything.

3) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God — don’t worry about this situation, take it to God.  Every thought, every action, and every reaction; bathe them in prayer.  Let God know that you are depending on Him to help you through this.

Peace.

(Two notes:  first, the preacher that I mentioned in the beginning of this devotional DID get fired after about 3 years, and I don’t know if he visited with that “pastor”; and, secondly, I believe in being a “Back to the Bible” movement for our doctrine and practice.  BUT, I think that we need to be just as serious about having the spirit of Jesus in our attitudes and actions toward one another.  Bill)

Friday Reflections

Time sure flies when you are having fun!  It seems like these weeks just keep getting shorter, and there is less and less time between these “Friday Reflections”.  But it is getting to a busy time of the year, and as we say farewell to “summer vacation” (although, we have kept on working), our schedules seem to increase in speed and the number of special events.  Here are some of the things that have gone on in my life this past week, and how they have impacted me.

Saturday, August 5:  Some of you that follow me on Facebook, know that I was really excited last Saturday because of some new milestones that I reached in my walking regimen.  I walked for 1 hour, 13 minutes, and 33 seconds; and in that time I covered 4.33 miles (which is a pace of 16:58 per mile).  What is exciting about this for me, is that when I started walking on June 1, about the most that I could walk was about a quarter of a mile.  That could be attributed to age, physical condition, weight, and surgery two days before; but I persisted, and kept walking a little farther, and a little faster, each day.  I have changed my walking “place” a couple of times, to make the walk better AND more difficult.  I have persisted through a bloody blister on the achilles tendon area, losing a toenail (because of a hammertoe that was taking the pounding of walking on asphalt and concrete), and just being physically drained after some of these walks.  What is the old saying, “no pain, no gain.”  Well, there is a lot of truth in that statement.

The apostle Paul once said, For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well — (Philippians 1:29, NRSV).  We struggle at times to understand how “suffering” can be considered a privilege.  James tried to explain it to us, by saying:  My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  (James 1:2-4, NRSV).  Much like the obstacles that I have faced have given me physical endurance and strength in my walking; when I face challenges in my walk with Jesus, as I overcome them I become stronger in my life in Jesus.  It may be a time for a lot of us to change our attitude about the difficulties we face each day.

Sunday, August 6:  Sunday evening, at the home of Tom and Lynne Reed, a Bible study group that I have  been leading for about 10-12 years, met to talk about our study that will begin in September.  The decision was made to study Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and that decision has already been a blessing to me.  Our first meeting will be on August 27th, and I have started preparing for it by reading the letter from a different translation each day.  You may have noticed that all of my devotionals, and “tweets,” have come from this book.  My life has already been enriched by the study of this special letter from Paul.  I am excited, not only because of the study with the group — but because of the enrichment that my soul has received, and will receive, from this study.

Wednesday, August 9 — I just knew that Wednesday was going to be a really good day, and it was — in spite of circumstances that just seemed to be determined to make the day difficult.

Wednesday about noon, the local ministerial alliance was providing and serving a meal for all the administration, teachers, and staff of the local school system.  Our congregation was asked to help provide desserts, and our ladies are OUTSTANDING at that.  On Sunday, I announced that the fellowship hall would be open Wednesday morning at 7:30 for them to bring the desserts, and I would pick them up at 10:00 to take them to the high school cafeteria by 10:30.  I just love it when a plan comes together.

Well, Tuesday afternoon, my oldest son (the one that had gall bladder surgery last week) called and asked if I could go with him to Rudy, Arkansas to pick up a couple of deer mounts.  We don’t get to spend as much time together as I would like, so I told him I could — but we would have to go and get back by 10:00.  We talked about it for a few minutes, and agreed that I would pick him up between 7:30 and 7:45, drive to Rudy (about a 45 minute drive) and be back in plenty of time.  Well, we left and the weather was perfect, and I really enjoyed having the time to visit with him — but then it happened.  After we passed the Winslow exit, we came to a complete stop on the bridge just before the Bobby Hopper tunnel.  I have heard, sometime in the past, about how high that bridge is, but I have forgotten; but I think that a 20-story building would fit underneath it.  Two minutes after we stopped, Josh’s phone beeped with a news flash.  A semi had overturned just south of the Bobby Hopper tunnel, and had both southbound lanes blocked, PLEASE FIND AN ALTERNATE ROUTE.  We are sitting on a bridge with no way to turn around, and no where to go!

I really was not too happy about being on that bridge to begin with, but after coming to a complete stop; you notice that every time a semi went past in the north bound lane, you could feel the bridge sway.  That every time a semi in our lanes, would pull forward for a few feet, with their jerking and bouncing motion, you could feel the bridge sway — and I will freely confess that I didn’t like that at all.  Well, after about sitting there 30 minutes, I wasn’t as worried about the swaying, because it had become painfully obvious that I was not going to be back by 10:00.  I called Malia, and she was swamped at work — we talked for a few moments about who I could call.  When we hung up, I was sitting there thinking about who to call, and my phone rang — it was Gay Wampler.  She had called to see if I knew if the funeral home needed any more of our “care” bags (for the families that had lost loved ones).  I told her that I didn’t think that they did, but I NEEDED a big favor.  So Gay, and Mildred Bone, got all the desserts from the fellowship hall  to the high school on time (in fact they were there a little early, which was a big help).

Not long after that, traffic started moving — Josh and I made it to the taxidermists, got the deer mounts and headed back.  I got to Prairie Grove, and walked into the cafeteria about 30 seconds before the prayer was offered before the food.  In time to be handed a pair of tongs, and serve the chicken for the fajita tacos that had been prepared.  It was a real privilege to serve, and visit, with the staff of our local schools.  I was glad to have that opportunity.

There is always something that we can find to be thankful for.  In this situation, I was thankful that there were those really smart, techno nerds that had the intelligence to invent a cell phone.  If they had not, I would have really been in a mess.  Secondly, I am extremely grateful to Gay Wampler and Mildred Bone for covering my responsibility of getting the desserts to the school, and being sure that our responsibility was covered.  Finally, I am glad we got back quickly, because it gave me time to work on my class for Wednesday night.  I needed the time, it was Lesson 6 in our series “The Holy Spirit and the Christian“, and it was about “What Does ‘Be Filled with the Spirit’ Mean.”

There are those times, that we just know that the Lord is working with us.  Thank you, Lord!

Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — August 11, 2017 — 249 pounds !!!!!

“What Ya’ Reading”

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.  (II Timothy 4:13, NIV)

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.  (II Timothy 4:13, ESV)

When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas.  Also bring my books, and especially my papers.  (II Timothy 4:13, NLT)

The past 10 days or so, I have had the practice of “reading” on my mind, a lot.  I have always been a reader, nothing more enjoyable than sitting down with a good book and getting lost in the story.  Books have always been a part of who I am, and I enjoying having books — almost as much as I do reading them.  I’m just now getting use to the idea of having “books” on my Kindle Fire.  It is still not as good as having a book in my hands, but it does provide a less expensive way to have stories, that I just want to read and forget.

BUT, as I stated, the practice of reading has been on my mind a lot — for the last 10 days or so.  Philip Yancy wrote a blog post (http://philipyancey.com/reading-wars) about reading — and how people don’t read like they used to read, how there are distractions to reading that pull us away, and the reading habits of successful people.  Then there is a Twitter post that makes the rounds about once a month, about how we should read —  Reading is a gift, but only if the words are taken into the soul — eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.  All of these things, added together, have made me stop and consider my current reading habits.  This morning, as I was out for my morning walk, my mind was constantly churning about what I needed to read, and what I was reading.  The conclusions I reached, were not very satisfying, and probably not acceptable to me.

First, I spend way too much time on the internet!  Spending time reading Facebook, Twitter, Razorback chat boards, and blog posts.  Now let me say, I read some really good blog posts (like the Yancy blog), that have been encouraging, edifying, and educational; and Twitter is filled (once you limit who you follow) with short, pithy statements that are challenging; and will stay with you (like the Peterson statement).  The problem is that you end up reading one thing, and being drawn to another — and then may end up deciding to play a game of solitaire (that turns into 25), and time is gone.  This is one of those areas where I have to learn to say “NO” to myself, and do what needs to be done.

Second, I am not a vociferous reader like many of my preacher friends; nor do I read stuff that is very heavy, theologically.  I have friends and acquaintances that will read more in two months, than I will in a year.  I want to be a better reader — in quantity and quality!  This is going to be a real challenge for me, because my reading has always been about reading what I want to read because I like it (not necessarily, because it is something that I have to read, or need to read).  There is the saying, that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Well, I’m not an old dog — I am an older man, that can change what they do.

Third, I am going to share with you what I am reading now, for a couple of reasons:  (1) to be held accountable for reading it; and (2) receive your comments, and encourage you to read more.  I will begin with the things that I do every day, and then what is ahead of me — beginning with the closes and working my way out.

For the past few years, I have begun the morning with a devotional from a daily devotional book.  This year, I have been reading One Year with Jesus, from Tyndale.  It is taken from the New Living Translation of the Life Application Bible.  I have not decided what to do next year, although I am looking at two on Psalms (Wiersbe and Lanier).  After that fairly short reading, this year I have been working my way through the Gospels.  This is not just reading, but this is highlighting and making extensive notes about what I am reading.  Right now, I am reading in Luke, and Luke some really long chapters.  It takes me almost an hour to work through one chapter.

Wednesday nights, I am teaching a class on The Holy Spirit and the Christian; and I am doing quite a bit of reading preparing for those classes.  I have 5 basic resources that I am using, plus notes that I have accumulated over the years, and other books that I am consulting.

This coming Sunday (8-13), the book club of the Prairie Grove church will meet.  I need to have two books finished by then, for the meeting — This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, and Imagine Heaven (John Burke).  This book club has been really good for me, because I have been forced to read books, that I would not normally read; and some of them have been a real blessing (The Hiding Place, for example).

I am not going to list all of the reading projects (I’m sure I will say something about them later), but I want to encourage you to READ!  First, and foremost, read your Bible, and then read books that will be Spiritually uplifting.  Read books that will educate, encourage, and edify you in your walk with the Lord.  Read books that will help you be a better person, parent, child, grandparent, wife, husband.  You are never too old to learn!  READ!!!

(I apologize for the rambling nature of this post, and how late in them morning it is being posted.  It has been two hours since I started this, and I have had several interruptions.  I’ll try to do better tomorrow.  Bill)

 

“Friday Reflections”

There are those weeks, where nothing seems to go the way it is supposed to go.  Beginning last Friday morning, and going through Monday morning, my oldest son made 5 trips to the emergency room.  The first four times they would take blood, run test, give him some pain medicine, and send him home.  The pain medicine they were giving him would last about four hours, and then he would be headed right back to the hospital.  Now, I don’t want you to think that I am being critical of the ER at this point, because his wife is a nurse in that emergency room (and she was with him every step of the way).  Because of the pain he was describing, and the location of that pain — everything they were testing for was coming up negative.  I mean we heard that it could be a kidney stone, diverticulitis, etc.  Monday morning, the pain seemed to have moved, and they did a test on his gall bladder; and saw something that did not look right.  So, they wanted to schedule some kind of “nuclear” test for Monday afternoon, but the schedule was full; and they could not administer the test until Tuesday morning.  The gall bladder was only operating with about 10% efficiency, and they surgically removed it on Wednesday morning.  Now, when you add that to the fact that I had my own doctor’s appointment this week, an elders’ meeting one night, a preacher’s luncheon one day, and a scheduled time to get my car serviced — my week seems to have been shot to pieces!

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am whining (well, may be I am a little bit), because I know that there are many of you that deal with more than that on a regular, weekly basis.  The Lord has really been good to me, and blessed me with this opportunity; and I am thankful for the privilege of being His servant in the way that I am.  But, I am very much a creature of habit, and messing with a schedule throws me for a loop.  I have been all summer working through a “new” schedule for my mornings, by adding a morning walk to what I was already doing.  So, it has really been frustrating for me.  But as I have thought about this, there are some lessons that I have been reminded of this week.

1) Patience — When I was a child, my mother was the secretary at the Midland Boulevard church in Fort Smith.  During the summer months, I was not old enough to stay by myself, and we could not afford a babysitter — so, I got to go with her (I’m sure that the preacher enjoyed those days).  I remember a small placard that was on the wall behind her desk, and I don’t know if she put it there, but it said “The faster I go, the behinder I get.”  Well, that has proven true for me this week!  Every time, I was rushing around to get something done: there would be something else pop up that needed to be done, I would not have something that I needed, the phone would ring, or something else would happen.  For the last 24 hours, I have been looking for a file folder that has all the notes that I have accumulated for the sermon this Sunday morning.  Somewhere, I have moved it — and I cannot figure out where!  (While typing this, I remembered a “daily prayer” that I had been encouraging people to pray ever day, and had been posting on a daily basis on the church Facebook page.  Well, I had forgotten to do it the last three days).  There comes a time when you stop, gather your thoughts, decide what is the most important, and concentrate on getting that done!    If you can’t get it all done, it will be there the next day!

2) Perspective — As I mentioned earlier, as a part of my effort to eat, live, and be healthier; I have included a morning walk in my routine.  Tuesday and Wednesday I was not able to walk — once because of rain, and once because I was going to the hospital for Josh’s surgery.  Thursday morning I did a shorter walk than normal, and pushed it at a faster pace.  This morning, I checked the radar and rain was headed our way.  So, I changed my route, and walked a shorter distance that did not take me too far from the house, so I could get back in a reasonable amount of time (if it started storming).  When I got back, I checked Runkeeper — and I had walked 2 1/2 miles yesterday, and 2 miles this morning.  Just over a month ago, I was struggling to be able to do a mile!  My perspective of what a “short” walk means has changed.  How often this is true in life!  It seems like that we say “I can’t do …”, and then when we try “we can”.  If there is some aspect of your walk with the Lord that you have hesitated to attempt, start trying, and I believe that it will become easier and easier.

3) Persistence — Anything new that we start, regardless of what it is, will take a persistent effort to make it work.  My morning walk is just one example, and every one of you have examples in your life that you could mention.  There are obstacles that we face, that we will have to overcome.  In my walking, there are several things that I could mention — beginning with my aversion to walking, just to be walking.  But, I have had foot problems for the last month.  Some of you may remember the picture on Facebook of my “Curt Schilling” sock.  I bought a new pair of shoes, and the second day I wore them they had rubbed a blister; that created a big bloody spot on my sock.  Well, I exchanged the shoes; but, I still had a huge sore at the base of my achilles tendon.  Well, it took me about three weeks to get it well.  Then, my doctor’s appointment this weeks was with a podiatrist.  I have “hammertoes”, and the nail on one of them is as black as the ace of spades.  The pounding of the walking on pavement and concrete on toenail (the hammertoe nail is pointed down), has created a bruise underneath the nail.  It doesn’t hurt, and there is nothing that I can do but keep the nail trimmed short.  I did buy a tube from the doctor, that will slip over the end of the toe, and is padded at the end to protect the toenail.  I imagine there will be other obstacles to overcome; for example, I have been walking around the campus of the local school system, school starts in about two weeks.  So, I’ll be looking for another place to walk (but I will find one).  In your Spiritual walk, there will be obstacles to face; and Satan will be sure that there is more than one.  You will have to be persistent in your efforts, and not allow the obstacles to overcome what you are doing.

4) Prayer — When we get to feeling overwhelmed, take it to the Lord!  He is there, He does care, and He can and will help!

Weight — March 15 — 324 pounds

Weight — August 4 — 252 pounds

Have a great day, and a great weekend!

Bill

“What Did You Catch?”

Fishermen can be a strange breed of individuals.  If you stand in front of a large assembly of people, and ask “Are there any bass fishermen in the crowd?”  The arms will go up with a variety of emotions behind them — some proudly, some defiantly, and some, rather, sheepishly.  The wife sitting next to those men, generally, roll their eyes, shake their head, and point at him.  The wives of those of this strange breed, often have a story to tell about their husband that begins with … “Can you believe …”. 

When I was younger, there were a few of those stories that could be told on me.  For example, there is a lake near Gentry with a coal-fired power plant, and the water in the lake stays near 90 degrees year round.  There have been a few times that I have fished on that lake, and it would be so cold; that the steam coming up from the water would freeze on you, your clothes, and your fishing gear.  Every so often, you would have to stick your rod down in the water, to get the ice off it, where it would continue to function.  Another one of those stories would be when I preached in Huntsville, Frank Davis and I would go to Table Rock, or Bull Shoals, late on a Saturday evening and fish nearly all night.  I would get home in time to sleep for an hour or two, get up and shower, and then go to church — teach a class, and then preach.  Frank had one rule about someone going with him on those Saturday night trips, you could not sleep in church the next day.  It would have been sort of hard for me to do that, but I really believe that Frank mastered the art of sleeping with his eyes open.

John 21 tells the story of several of the disciples going on an all night fishing excursion.  What makes this fishing trip interesting is that it was after Jesus had been resurrected, and it is the longest account of any appearance of the risen Savior.  It is a rather lengthy reading, but I want to share it with you here:

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
(John 21:1-14, NIV)

It is really interesting to note, that some of the disciples were fishermen by trade, but the only time that we read of them catching fish — is when Jesus helped them (Luke 5).  There are a lot of dramatic points that could be made from this appearance story of Jesus and His disciples, but I want to limit to just one!

JESUS WANTED THE DISCIPLES, AND US, TO KNOW THAT DEATH NOT HAD STOPPED HIS ABILITY TO BE WITH THEM, PROVIDE FOR THEIR NEEDS, AND TO SERVE THEM!

He was there in their midst (as He had been before Calvary), He told them where to fill their nets (as He had before Calvary, and He served them by having breakfast ready.  The strong meaning of that for us, is that He can continue to provide and serve us, and be with us.  What a lesson!  What a promise!  Peace.

(First, let me apologize if you searched for a blog entry this morning.  My oldest son had surgery this morning, and I was at the hospital.  The second thing is that I have an appointment in the morning at 9:00 a.m., and so there won’t be a devotional tomorrow.  This devotional was original posted on this blog in May, and it is one of the lowest viewed posts that I have ever done.  So, I’m using it again today.  If you have read it, I’m sorry for the repetition; and if you have not, I hope that it is a blessing.  Bill)

“Friday Reflections”

Last Sunday morning, we had our 7th lesson in our series “Encounters with Jesus“.  30+ years ago, my friend, Lynn Anderson, preached a series of sermons on “Jesus and People“; and ever since then I have had an interest in the way that people interacted with Jesus during his earthly ministry.  The last lesson this past Sunday dealt with John 9, and in particular, the question that the disciples asked Jesus … “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.”  (John 9:2, ESV).  During the lesson we talked about suffering, the why of suffering, and our response to suffering.  This was a very emotional lesson for our congregation.  We are an older congregation, and there are a number of us that are deal with the problems of age, disease, and sickness.  So, there are many that are staring the problem of suffering right in the face, and need all the help and encouragement they can get.  It was not a lesson that was easy to prepare, or present; because of the emotional bond that I have with the people of this church — but I was overwhelmed with the response to the lesson.  I know that the sermon was good for me, and I believe that it was a blessing to the people.

Also, Sunday night, our “Gathering” class, finished the second (of two) lessons on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:15-23).  We had a really good discussion about Paul praying for the eyes of their heart to be opened, and what he wanted them to be opened to see.  Our challenge for the class, was for the next 30 days to pray Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, for our church in Prairie Grove.  You might want to do this for your church, the prayer is:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, …  (Ephesians 1:16-19, ESV)

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  There is a blog post written by Philip Yancy that is really making the rounds in the last couple of weeks.  I have seen it shared on Facebook many times; in fact, I am reprinting it in my (almost) monthly newsletter for “Book Club” at our local church.  You can read the article here — http://philipyancey.com/reading-wars — and it is well worth the time to take and read.  Yancy laments the fact that “social media” has taken away our ability to focus on reading “books”.  We are so accustomed to checking our phones, tablets, or computers for a two paragraph summary, that we cannot concentrate to read the real works of art.

Yancy’s blog reminded me of a book, that I read about two years ago, entitled Why Johnny Can’t Preach.  The very first chapter is “Why Johnny Can’t Preach, Part 1:  Johnny Can’t Read”. The author, David Gordon, begins the chapter by saying — There is a profound difference between reading information and reading texts.  The former permits a disinterest in the question of HOW the matter is composed; its interest is only in the content. Indeed, the skill of rapid reading was designed precisely to achieve better efficiency when reading for information, by actually training the mind to ignore most of the articles, prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs.  But reading a text is a laboriously slow process; …  Let me see if I can illustrate the difference.  This week I have read two crime/suspense novels (about 280 pages each), and I can tell you the story; but I skipped over and ignored a lot of the details.  Also this week, in my early morning devotional reading, I am reading The Gospel of Luke.  Because of the length of the chapters in Luke, I am fortunate to get a chapter read in an hour.

The danger is that I allow social media to change my reading style (or manner), and that my ability to concentrate fades to the point; that I read my Bible, like I read a crime novel.  Reading the Bible is more than just reading for information.  It is reading to get to know the One that inspired the author.  Be sure that you have good reading habits for Bible study.

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Finally, old habits can be really hard to break.  All of my life, I have eaten too much, too fast, and not chewed it enough.  I can remember my mother saying, repeatedly, Bill, slow down.  You are swallowing that food whole.  Since March 20 (the day that I really got serious about losing some weight), I have kept a written log of every thing that I have had to eat and drink.  Each day has its own page, and at the top of each page I have written in bold letters:  EAT MINDFULLY – SLOWLY – PURPOSEFULLY.  Of the things that the doctors, nutritionists, and nurses at Roller Weight Loss Clinic have told us, I would rank this as the most important.

But knowing that, and putting it into practice every time you put something into your mouth is not that easy.   It is especially important, after you had the “weight loss” surgery, like I did.  When you eat slowly, and chew every bite until it has the consistency of applesauce — you can recognize when you are getting full, and know it is time to stop.  When you eat too fast, and don’t chew your food, you are full before you know it.  When that happens, the pain from indigestion is almost unbearable.  I have been fortunate, that has only happened to me 3 or 4 times, since my surgery about 8 1/2 weeks ago.  The problem is that it happened once this week.  You would think by now, I would know better, and not do that — and you’re right, I should.  But old habits are hard to break, and if you aren’t paying attention; you do it before you think about it.

I could not think about how much that is like our struggle with sin and the devil.  There comes that time, when we think that we have him defeated, and sin will no longer be a problem.  When we quit paying attention, that when he attacks the hardest.  Be on guard, the enemy is watching!

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Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 lbs

Weight — July 28, 2017 — 253 lbs

May God richly bless you.  Bill

“I’m Proud of My Son”

You may have read that title, and thought that I was going to talk about my son — and I could, except I would have to talk about my sons.  This morning, I want to share with you a special memory that I have of a special man, and his son.  When Jerry Edwards and I were sharing an apartment in Rogersville, Alabama; our neighbors across the street were Roy and Petey Trousdale, and their two children Roy Mac and Benja.  That family had a heart of gold, because they endured a lot from the two of us.  Jerry lived there for about a year, before he moved to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee; to be the youth minister for the Pulaski Street church.  I stayed there another year, and then moved 5-6 miles to the east on Snake Road to preach for the Cedar Grove church.  But even after I moved there, Roy and Petey were still an indispensable part of my life.  I’m sure that there were, at least, a couple of years, that they could have claimed me as a deduction on their taxes.

I really don’t know how old Roy was when Roy Mac was born, but I’m pretty sure that he was considerably older; than most of the fathers of the other boys Roy Mac’s age.  On top of that, Roy had several medical problems that hindered his lifestyle.  I believe that he had asthma, emphysema, and diabetes; and he couldn’t go and do like a lot of the other fathers did.  Bobby Whitehead told me the story of when Roy Mac was young, and was running all over the place, and Roy was struggling to keep up with him.  Someone asked him, and I believe it was Bobby, “Roy what do you need to keep up with him?”  Roy was bent over, trying to catch his breath, and without even looking up, said “Three lungs.”  But there is one thing that I do know, there was not a father that was prouder of his son, than Roy was of Roy Mac.  He’d go watch him play football and baseball, at times when he didn’t feel like being there, and he would talk to me about how Roy Mac played in the different games.  His heart would soar when they won, and his heart would break, when they lost (because he knew how much losing hurt Roy Mac).  You could watch his chest swell with pride when he talked about his son.  Really, he was not much different than any other dad, but it just seemed to me; that it may have been really special to him.  I don’t know if it was because he was older, and waited longer to have the joy of being a father, or it was just his nature.

This morning, as I was reading in Luke 1, I was reminded of Roy, as I read about another father that was advanced in years.  Now Scripture defines Zechariah and, his wife, Elizabeth as being “very old.”  You would never in a million years catch me saying that about Roy and Petey, but Zechariah’s story rang out loud to me this morning.  I could not tell you how many times I have read Luke 1, probably 8 or 9 in the last year; but Zechariah’s prophecy more personal this morning — than most other mornings.  Listen to what the text says:

Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
 
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
        because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior
        from the royal line of his servant David,
just as he promised
        through his holy prophets long ago.
Now we will be saved from our enemies
        and from all who hate us.
He has been merciful to our ancestors
        by remembering his sacred covenant—
the covenant he swore with an oath
        to our ancestor Abraham.
We have been rescued from our enemies
        so we can serve God without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
        for as long as we live.
 
“And you, my little son,
        will be called the prophet of the Most High,
        because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation
        through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy,
        the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
        and to guide us to the path of peace.”    (Luke 1:67-79, NLT)
Obviously, you can see in that first section, that he is offering praise to God for remembering His covenant with Abraham, and how that God is going to rescue them from their enemies, and they will be able to serve God without fear.  BUT, that second section, he calls John “my little son” — can you not hear the pride in his voice.  That God would choose to use his son, for a mission that would lead the people to find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.
All fathers need to proud of their sons, and they need to teach them how to live — so that they can be proud.  But, if our sons choose to play a role in the teaching of the gospel — helping people to find salvation, through the forgiveness of sins — we can be especially proud, like Zechariah.  I will admit, that even though I have read that prophecy from Zechariah many times, this morning may be the first time I have ever heard/seen the pride from Zechariah in it.
Fathers, we have an important task — raising young children, our children, to follow Jesus.  We will always be proud of them, but help them to find the path to Jesus; and teach them how to tell others how to find that path.  Peace.
(I not very computer literate, and struggle with a lot of things that my computer can do.  If you notice on this blog, the spacing in the first half of the post is different than the spacing in the second half.   I used the cut-and-paste method for putting the Scripture passage on here; and after I did that, the computer changed the spacing — I don’t know how it did it, why it did it, or how to change it back!  I fiddled with it a long time, and never did figure it out.  So, there are times you just confess to being a dummy, and go with what you have.  Bill)

“What are You Chasing”

There was a customer that I had for many years, who once told me “that he did not build houses, he built landmarks”.  I want you to know, that he was telling the truth.  He built some of the most magnificent, large houses that I have ever seen.  Malia and I always made it a point during the “Northwest Arkansas Parade of Homes,” to go through his entry for that year; and she always says “he never disappoints.”  The Parade was about 5-6 weeks ago, and I believe that his entry this year, was the best that I have ever seen.  Truly, a magnificent structure!

It was, and still is, a breath-taking pleasure to go through those homes — that are so beautiful, that are decorated exquisitely, and with fantastic curb appeal.  Some of them are so large, that they have a master bath larger than our master bedroom.  As we have toured these homes, we have often wondered where these people worked; and what exactly did they do.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, I am glad that people have the jobs that they have, are able to build the homes that they want, and to live the lifestyle that they have chosen — that is one of the advantages of living where and when we do.  People building, and buying houses, is how I made a living for 12 years.  We just need to recognize that money, fancy cars, luxury items, and big houses are not the ultimate test of success.

When I read this passage, there were a couple of thoughts that stuck out in my mind about life, success, riches, and big houses:

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases.  (Psalm 49:16, NIV)

First, is the use of the word “overawed”.  Most of the other translations, use the concept of don’t be “afraid” of someone’s wealth.  Afraid may be a more correct translation, but I like what the word “overawed” says to me.  There are things that we see that are purchased with the wealth of this world, that really will take your breath away.  But don’t let the “things” of this world consume you.  So many people are consumed by the “desire” and the “chase” to be wealthy, that they hardly think of anything else.  God doesn’t want his people to be that way!  It’s not wrong to be wealthy, but it is wrong to put it above “seeking God”.

Secondly, the rest of the chapter is fascinating, because it  very bluntly teaches — you can’t take it with you!  About a year ago, there was a picture on Facebook of a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer, with the caption saying “I was wrong, you can take it with you.”  As funny as that is, you really can’t take it with you!  A life chasing riches, without seeking God. may make for a luxurious life now — but that is all it will be.

A man who has riches WITHOUT understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  (Psalm 49:20, NIV).

Never leave God out of your plans, your wealthy, or your future.  Peace.

 

(This is a revised and updated version of a post that first appeared on Facebook on May 4, 2016.  It is being used as one of our “Psalms for Saturday,” and I hope that it is a blessing to you.  Thanks for reading, Bill.)

“Friday Reflections”

Last Friday morning (7-14), it was my privilege to attend a catered breakfast at Hooten Equipment Company in the Bethel Heights area.  The purpose of the breakfast was to celebrate the retirement of Gary Shackelford as their service manager, after being with them for 13 years.  The reason I attended, was for the 5 years that I was the branch manager of Fowler Equipment, Gary was the office manager.  I know that the guys at Hooten Equipment will miss what Gary does, because he was invaluable to me!

When I was hired as the branch manager of Fowler; I had absolutely no experience in the business world, and knew very little about the equipment business.  A Master’s degree in Biblical Studies, and 25 years in ministry; were good for me (and helped in some aspects of a management job), but, by and large, were worthless in the petroleum equipment business.  Oh, I had grown up with diesel between my toes, and could talk the language of those in the business — because my dad had been the Hooten, that started and owned Hooten Equipment.  But how things worked, how they were installed, and how you fixed them; was completely beyond me.  I had worked for dad as a young teenager, but I didn’t want to learn anything, I just wanted to do what he told me, and draw a paycheck.  If it had not been for Gary — his attention to detail, his organizational skills, his ability to find anything, and his trustworthiness — I would have fallen flat on my face at the job.  Oh, I knew a few things about people, and had some basic management skills; and they told me to give a job to Gary, and stay out of his way and let him do it.  When we moved into a much larger building, I gave Gary the job of finding us a new phone system.  After we moved in, my boss wanted to know what systems we looked at, why this one was the best, and what all the others cost.  He went ballistic when I told him that I didn’t know, that I had give that job to Gary; and what I knew was that this system met our needs the best, and was the most cost efficient.  He could not believe that I would operate that way, and told me so, but you know I never could (or wanted to) micro-manage like that.

Elders, in my opinion, need to learn to operate like that.  If you have good people, and you give them a job to do — let them do it!  Don’t be looking over their shoulder all of the time, or questioning every little decision that they make.  When the apostles gave the seven men in Acts 5 the task of feeding the Grecian widows, I don’t believe that they went by every day to check on what they were doing.  The reason they gave them the job was so that they could be preaching and teaching the Word of God.  Checking on those that were doing the job would have taken them away from what they needed to be doing.

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Last Saturday morning, at 4:00 a.m., Jerry and Pam Coyle picked Malia up, to go to XNA airport —  Malia, Pam, Patty, and Kim were off to Cancun for a week!  This trip had been in the planning for several years, as sort of a special birthday celebration trip.  Malia and I have texted back and forth a few times this week, and it appears that she is having a fabulous time.  I’m glad that she has friends that she enjoys being with, and can spend time with.  I’ll never forget my mother telling me, after Dad had been gone for a couple of three years, that she was really glad that Malia had friends, close personal friends that she could spend time with.  I asked her why?  She explained for over 50 years she had devoted every minute to Dad, and that she didn’t regret one minute of it — they worked together, they lived together, they did church work together, and they were always  together — and they loved each other with unending devotion.  You hardly ever spoke of Jay, or Jo — because it was always Jay and Jo.  But, now that he was gone, she felt so alone!  She had friends, but no one that was super close to — like Malia’s friends!  She told me to not ever be jealous of them, or the time that she spends with them; because it could be very important to her later on.  Momma was pretty smart.

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Just before I sat down and started typing this, I came in from my morning walk.  About 6:05, I started over to the place where I have been walking for the last 8 weeks.  It is a nice, flat track around 4 baseball/softball fields, and it measures .45 of a mile for each lap.  Yesterday, my friend, Keith Bostian, who is the music minister at Prairie Grove Christian, and also serves as the cross country coach at the high school, encouraged me to vary my walking places.  He explained that our body adapts to what we are doing, and that my walking may not be doing me as much good as when I first started walking there.  So, on my way over there, I saw another place that I could walk — so, I parked the car, and started walking!  The new place has some different terrain, it’s not all flat — it has some ups and downs.  Them ups, were kicking me every step of the way.  BUT, I did walk longer (52 minutes and 25 seconds) and further (3.1 miles), than I ever have before.  Now, the pace was about 30 seconds a mile slower, part of that was intentional (to try and go further), the other part was that the terrain slowed me down.

You know, I thought about that as it relates to our Christian walk.  We get into a routine, and we get really comfortable with what we are doing.  Our “spiritual body” adjusts to what we do, and soon it is not really a challenge any more.  I would challenge you to push yourself, and try to do something for the Lord that you have never done before.  Let me tell you, it is easy to get in a position where you are doing what you like and what is easy.  Try something for the Lord — invite someone to come to church, do something good for your neighbor, or just let the world see your light shine for Jesus.

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Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324

Weight — July 21, 2017 — 257

Have a blessed day, Bill!