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Nothing Is Ever Simple

There is a reason we have Deacons and other boards and committees. Proverbs 24:6 says “…for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” A good idea can be made better by the input and perspective of others.  And what seems to be a good idea at first can be revealed to have some serious flaws when it is discussed and prayed over with others.

Back on June 28th of this year I said something in my Sunday morning message that seemed like a good idea at the time. Actually, it seemed like a great idea. It also was a good illustration for the passage I was preaching on, Luke 8:20-26, where Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. And blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.” We looked at the reality that being poor or hungry isn’t necessarily a guarantee of sainthood. Poor people can be mean old sinners, too, and the hunger Jesus was talking about was a spiritual hunger for righteousness. Nevertheless, people are poor, and hunger is an ongoing problem, even here in America. It’s hard to talk to people about Jesus when their stomachs are empty.

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The Lord’s Rest

I’ve always had trouble going to sleep. It seems like it takes me forever.  I couldn’t begin to count the times I’ve looked at the clock at 2:00, 3:00, or even 4:00 in the morning. Even as a small child I can remember lying awake at night while all the rest of my family was asleep, crying because I couldn’t sleep.

I think I come by it honestly. My grandfather could sit or lie down and go to sleep whenever he wanted. But my grandmother had difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep. As a teenager, I’d stay all night at their house and stay up to watch the late show. Grandma would get up about every hour or hour and a half, for one reason or another. She called it “prowling”. She had various explanations: “I can’t sleep.” “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” Or my favorite: “My stomach’s upset. I need to drink some buttermilk.” (I never understood that one. Frankly, drinking buttermilk doesn’t settle my stomach.)

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God Appointments

On a recent Tuesday morning I drove to the church and walked in, ready to begin the week’s tasks. Ordinarily, after checking in with the secretary to see if anything needs my attention, I go right to my desk, unload my briefcase and open my Bible.

On this particular day, though, I stopped to talk with our cashiers. Then I talked with some ladies who had come in to finish painting one of our hallways. Then one of my colleagues in the ministry stopped by, and we talked for a while. After that conversation, I had a message to call someone; when I returned the call, I had a happy talk with the folks on the other end. In fact, all of these conversations were happy ones that left me feeling charged up and encouraged. (You can’t say that about every conversation.)

As I prepared to leave for lunch, I told our secretary, “It’s been a good morning, but it hasn’t gone anything like what I’d expected. I’m gonna go eat lunch, then come back and take another crack at it.” (She was glad to hear me say that, because I was supposed to have been writing an article for her to put in the next newsletter…this article, in fact. Never antagonize a church secretary who needs an article.)

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Singing from Halley’s Bible Handbook

I love Halley’s Bible Handbook. Not the new, updated one. The one you want is the old blue version of Halley’s Bible Handbook. Some of the archeological information in it is a little out of date, but the rest of it is great. The new version in the white cover has more up-to-date archeological articles, but it has edited out nearly all of the charm of Henry Hampton Halley’s original. Halley started self-publishing his Handbook in 1924 as a 17-page pamphlet, and he kept adding to it up until he died in 1965. Zondervan Publishing House acquired the rights in 1960. By then it had sold over five million copies.

I’d seen the little blue Bible handbook on bookstore shelves for years before I ever bought one. It just seemed so humble and unassuming, sitting there next to weightier tomes of Biblical knowledge.

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I Don’t Understand

There doesn’t seem to be much to celebrate in America right now, does there? Our country is a mess. My grandfather once told me politics was a dirty business. I thought he was just being cynical. But I don’t think so anymore.

I know I’m supposed to write these articles to help you understand spiritual things better. Instead, this time I’m going to tell you some things I just don’t understand.

I don’t understand why some politicians will say the most outrageous things just to score points with potential voters. I don’t understand how politicians can reverse themselves and say something with a straight face that is diametrically opposite of something they’d said before.

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Process

There’s an old curse which says “May you live in interesting times.” It sounds fairly innocuous, but on reflection you can see the meaning: uninteresting times are times of peace and tranquility; interesting times are times of upheaval and unrest. We are certainly living in interesting times! Historic, in fact.

I wanted to take a few moments to elaborate on something I spoke about from the pulpit last Sunday. I’d like you to know the process the Deacons and I went through in deciding about reopening the church for services on Sunday mornings. It was not a snap decision.

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Quarantine

Well, this was all very surreal.

After Easter morning I was just exhausted. We had put on the service with a “skeleton crew” worship team for our live radio broadcast on WQTY 93.3 FM. I always feel extra keyed-up for Easter, and I still felt that way even though the stay-at-home order had left us without a congregation. In order to limit the number of people who needed to come in to put on the service, I played all the music on my guitar. I confess I felt some extra pressure because of that. Normally if I miss a chord or a beat, I know Charlene will carry the music with the piano. Without her there I had to make sure I played things right!

And I always feel a keen anticipation about the Easter sermon. I love to preach about the resurrection of Christ and why there are solid reasons to believe that it actually happened. Easter is my favorite Sunday of the year, and while I was disappointed that we didn’t get to have a Sunrise Service or an Easter breakfast, I still anticipated preaching the resurrection sermon.

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The Church is Empty

I just started crying. 

I was quite unprepared for the wave of emotion I felt when I walked in the church. It was Sunday morning, March 22, the first “quarantine Sunday”. I had just arrived, unlocked the east doors and turned on the lights. And as I walked across the east entry area, my throat tightened and I began to cry. I thought, “A church is supposed to be met in!” Not the best grammar, I know, but that’s what I thought. And I continued to be choked up as I went around turning on some lights and getting things ready for the stripped-down worship service we were about to do for the radio broadcast and over the internet. 

When the federal and state government’s guidelines were announced the previous week, this was a situation none of us had faced before. Not knowing exactly what to do or what was safe, I consulted with Dennis Babcock, our chairman of Trustees, and we gave our church secretary and church custodian some “emergency days” and encouraged them to stay home. Without Wednesday or Sunday services to get ready for, there was no need to print bulletins or prayer lists, or to have the building “spic and span”. So until we had a clearer idea of what we should and shouldn’t do, we told our employees to stay home.

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