Letting Go

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“Why not rather be wronged?” Abe Lemmons was asked if he was bitter at Texas Athletic Director Deloss Dodds who fired him as the Longhorn’s basketball coach. He replied, “Not at all, but I plan to buy a glass-bottomed car so I can watch the look on his face when I run over him.”

Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? WOW, those questions hurt! They go against everything we stand for. What about decency? What about fairness? What about right and wrong?

In this whole Sixth Chapter of First Corinthians, Paul is talking about the way that Christians deal with each other. They were obviously arguing and bickering over everything and it was making a mess in the Church. If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Here is the problem in the Church at Corinth! The issue is more than just correcting a wrong that has been done. The issue is who is going to win! Who will emerge the “top dog?”

A lady named Sue called me to her house one day. She wouldn’t share with me the reason she wanted my visit to her home. I was somewhat surprised by the call because she wasn’t a member of my church nor to my knowledge was she even active in any church. She was wanting advice on how to handle a problem that had arisen in her life. There are two types of people who seek advice: One is the person who legitimately wants your advice. The other is the person who has already made their decision and simply wants your blessing. Her name had appeared in another city newspaper as being arrested for prostitution. Someone had seen the name and then spread the word that it was her. We know that others have the same name, I have found some of your names in the obituary, but it wasn’t you. News of this had spread to a few of her friends and co-workers. How was she to handle the problem? Should she sue the ones spreading the untruth? Should she print an article in the local newspaper that would announce that it was not her? My advice, floored her. Leave it alone. Let it die. In other words, “Why not rather be wronged?” A couple of weeks later an article appeared in the local paper talking about the woman and all the rumors going around the county. The article could not substantiate that the name in the other was indeed a different person. The article had been placed there by the woman’s insistence, because she was going to correct a wrong done to her. It only served to really get the mess stirred.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. It is clear, the believer is not to retaliate, not to seek vengeance and not to harbor resentment. Retaliation and vengeance is Gods and God will do the discipline for us. But there is satisfaction in doing it ourselves! If I do it, I know that it will get done and in a timely manor.

In a minister’s meeting in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one day the ministers were discussing a problem that had occurred at the First Presbyterian Church. The treasurer of the congregation had embezzled $97,000.00 that they could account for. All of us heard the expected response, “prosecute them.” What we didn’t expect came from the minister of the First Presbyterian Church who had obviously given this problem a great deal of thought. “The time will come when the $97,000.00 will not be remembered, but the grace extended to the perpetrator will always be remembered.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Sounds like a good response to me! After all, they have to protect themselves. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:50-52)

It is far to easy to strike back. The husband is unfaithful, so the wife strikes back. The employee is fired, so the employee messes up the computer. The car is not repaired properly, so we run and file a lawsuit. We are really good at holding on to things. We can’t hold on to the past.

As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21)

When my children were little they would come home and complain about being called some name. I would remind them of the little old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Sure, it hurt to hear those unkind words. Why not rather be wronged? Let go of it and move on.

In Africa, lions live in groups called prides. The pride cares for everyone in the group. The older lions that can no longer run after the prey, The pride uses to its advantage. They can’t run but they have a loud roar. The younger lion don’t have the roar but they have the speed. So at one end of the clearing where the prey is to be found the older lions will lay down and roar. The younger lions will go to the other end of the clearing and remain silent. The prey, hearing the roar of the older lions runs away, right into the younger lions. They run from their fears, to their death.

Jesus reminds us that the stronger one will forgive and let go. It is not for the advantage of the one who has wronged us. It is not even for the world that watches with open eyes. It is for us, because it is what Christ would have done. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

Christmas 2016

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My life changed in mid January as a sixteen year old boy named Cyle (Kyle) moved into my home. A child that had been in foster care all of his life. Several people said, “You reared two children of your own. Why do you want to do it again?” While Cyle at times has posed a challenge, he is also a blessing. He certainly keeps this old man, young.

In March I started the adoption process. WHAT A NIGHTMARE! Can I tell you that dealing with the State of Kansas and the Department of Children and Families in particular, has been the most challenging gosh awful process I have ever dealt with. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. No one accepts responsibility or accountability. Things get lost in the system and NO ONE gets in a hurry. We were over half way through the adoption when all at once they discovered that parental rights had never been dissolved. I still remember the words of the judge, “How can the state have a child in custody for 17 years and not know that parental rights had never been dissolved? This has to be the craziest case that has ever been before this court!” That same judge after clearing up that mess said “there is no reason this adoption can’t be finalized in 31 days.” That was on September 2nd, DCF still hasn’t finished doing their job. It has taught me patience but to also keep my jawbone of an ass in my briefcase.

Cyle and I drove out to California and spent a week camping in the Red Wood National Forest. It was great. Peaceful and quiet and even the cell phones wouldn’t work. On the way back to Kansas we stopped at Crater Lake National Park and camped a few days with Brooks and her family.

A group of nine from Hillside traveled to Spain. What a fantastic trip it was. We were able to walk through the history of the Spanish people. We visited Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia, and Barcelona. The people where friendly, the weather cooperated and the food was excellent.

Brooks, Dan, Peter and Nora still live in Portland, OR. Peter is now 11 and Nora 9. They will be here for Christmas, that always makes Christmas special. Clyde (my dog), was so excited to know that they were coming to Wichita, until he heard about the news that they now have a cat! Clyde isn’t so sure he wants to be around anyone that hangs around a cat. It’s a dog thing.

Jonathan is still practicing law in Wichita. He gave a very generous gift to a foundation in memory of his mother to battle cancer. I still remember the smile on Vickie’s face when I would look out on Sunday morning and see her sitting between the two kids. Church and family where her two great passions.

My Christmas table will be bigger and fuller this year. I feel blessed by God. Three wonderful children, two loving grandchildren, a great best friend, many friends who are kind to me, and a congregation that blesses me every day in ministry. Yes, Christmas will be special this year. A lesson I have learned is that Christmas can come all year long. Christmas comes every time we give a little bit of ourselves away. Every gift given comes back to us tenfold from God.

My prayer for you, is that your Christmas will be as joyful and blessed as ours. Merry Christmas! Bill

Incarnation

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only….

It is the writer of John that reminds us that God has always been with us! In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

There is but one God! Paul later writes, Eph 4:5 …one Lord, one faith, one baptism….The whole purpose of the trinity was for us to be able to better understand God. Jesus was present when the Spirit of God moved over the face of the deep at creation. Jesus was present when Joshua crossed over the Jordan River.
Jesus has always been present.

At the birth of Jesus, something different happens. We call it the incarnation. The coming of God’s Son into the world as a human being. The term itself is not used in the Bible, but it is based on clear references to Jesus as a person “in the flesh”. Rom 8:3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. Paul was absolutely convinced that Jesus was a human being, flesh and blood. But if Jesus were merely a man, no matter how great, there would be no significance in drawing attention to His bodily existence. The marvelous thing is that in Jesus, God Himself began to live a fully human life. As Paul declared, Col 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…. The capacity of Jesus to reveal God to us and to bring salvation depends upon His being fully God and fully man at the same time.

For 18 years Dian Fossey, zoologist, worked with gorillas on the continent of Africa. Working in the Mountains, located in the nation of Rwanda, she separated herself from civilization and those, who as poachers, sought to destroy the endangered gorillas. Leaving life in one part of this world, she moved halfway around the world to the region of the gorillas and literally lived among them. She first began in 1963 and four years later, by 1967, the gorillas had come to accept her. Looking at the gorillas as deserving of her love, she identified with them, named them, cradled their babies, cried with them when they mourned their dead. After 18 years with the gorillas, it was home. She had made her home with them; she became like them; she dwelt among them; they were her friends. And when faced with the danger of her mission, she would not leave. In the end, as 1985 came to a close, Fossey died among those she came to save. Apparently knifed by poachers whose trade she sought to destroy, she died like those she came to live among and save. Our human minds cannot understand how Jesus can be both fully God and fully man. But the Bible gives clear indication of how this works out in practice. No person may see God and live . He dwells in unapproachable light . Can we, therefore, only know Him from a distance? No! God has come near in the person of Jesus . He has taken on a form in which He can be seen, experienced and understood by us as human beings .

This does not mean, however, that Jesus’ humanity is only a display case for His divinity. Jesus lived out His human life by experiencing all the pressures, temptations, and limitations that we experience . The Bible makes it clear when it speaks of “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” . God likes people. He sent his Son to be one!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Inclusiveness Or Exclusiveness?

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A Texan drove into a gas station in the hills of Tennessee. He was wearing a big ten-gallon hat and fancy cowboy boots; he had diamond rings on both hands and was puffing a king-sized cigar. “Fill ‘er up!” he yelled at the attendant as he strolled inside. Sitting over to one side of the room on a keg was a Tennessee farmer. “Live around here?” asked the Texan. “Yep, the Tennessean answered, “that’s my place across the road.” “Oh, it is,” said the Texan condescendingly, “well tell me, how many acres have you got?” “Oh, about eighty acres, more or less.” “Only eighty acres?’ scoffed the Texan, well let me tell you about my place. Why I get in my car early in the morning and start driving in a straight line, and by noon I haven’t even reached the other side! Now, what about that?” “Yep, I know what you mean,” the Tennessee farmer replied, “I used to have a car like that myself.”

It is called by many titles, egotism, arrogance, pride, but the scripture calls it sin! Then there was the old fable of the frog who wanted to go south with the geese. They discussed the wonderful southern climate and the fall migration so much that the frog became obsessed with wanting to go. Now the geese liked him and wanted him to join them, but his abilities as a frog simply didn’t include flying. So, they put the burden on him by saying, “If you can figure out a way to go, we’d be delighted to have you down there with us.” The frog put on his thinking cap and eventually came up with a plan. He talked two of the geese into holding a stick between them in their bills. He clamped his mouth on the middle of the stick and they took off. It worked! They began flying down, and they were doing great; but several other geese flew by and one observed, “My, isn’t that a clever idea? I wonder whose idea it was?” And with that, the frog told them — and landed in the ocean.

Proverbs says, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (16:18)

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee is the one who enjoys a great reputation in the community.
He is the one that everyone respects and looks up to. The Pharisee was the one who is well educated and knows God’s will for his life and the people.

The tax collector was the one that was despised by the people. The Romans didn’t care about the background of the tax collector as long as the collector got the money. It paid well, but no one wanted to be your friend.

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ What is the difference between the two men? A fifth grade honors teacher once told me, she has gifted pupils still stuck on fourth-grade math. She spends lunch hour doing remedial tutoring for the gifted. She estimates that a third of her pupils do not belong in honors. And yet the gifted program grows and grows. A lot of it has to do with parental pressure. Parents of the gifted have formed their own group at the school. It is a political force, nominating school board candidates. Honors teachers complain that truly gifted children are not advancing quickly enough because instruction must be slowed to accommodate the semi-gifted. Why? Because pride outweighs the reality of the needs of the child.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God, Jesus said. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In the parable, it is easy to see that God doesn’t desire the heart of the Pharisee but desires the heart of the tax collector. Pride has always separated humanity from God. Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, The great act of faith is when man decides that he is not God. The true scandal is that however faithfully and clearly one preaches the Gospel, at a certain point, the world, because it is in rebellion, will turn from it. People turn away not because what is said makes no sense, but because they do not want to bow before the God who is there. This is the “scandal of the cross.”

Leo Tolstoy tells in one of his folk stories of an aged man who overheard the conversation of three women at a well. The first one to speak described her son in glowing terms — he was an entertainer who surpassed all others in dexterity and skill. The second one of the three mothers, not to be outdone, told of her son’s beautiful voice — how he thrilled the young and old with notes as sweet as a nightingale. The two turned to the third one, asking, “In what talent does your son excel?” The woman simply answered, “My son is an ordinary boy, he has no special gifts of which I could report.” The aged man followed the three on their way back to the village. The heavy buckets of water they bore made them stop for a rest.
Their three sons came running to meet them. The first one turned one somersault after another. The women stood admiring the young entertainer. The second boy sang like a melodious nightingale. His singing moved the women; their eyes were dimmed with tears. But the third one of the sons ran to his mother, picked up the heavy buckets and carried them home for her. The three women inquired of the aged man. “What do you say about our sons?” “Your sons?” responded the astonished man. “I saw but one. I recognized only one single son.”

Church’s even become arrogant and lose sight of their mission. We have a big budget and can do all these things. All of the rich people go here. We are the largest and most influential….What witness was the Pharisee to the community?

Arrogance give us a cowardice that shrinks from new truth, and a laziness that is content with half truths, and an arrogance that thinks it knows all truth. Then God brings us down as he broke Job down, for our own good. I asked God for strength, that I might achieve — I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for help, that I might do greater things — I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches, that I might be happy — I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life — I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for — but everything that I had hoped for. Despite myself, my prayers were answered.

Listening To The Unchurched Generation

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A preacher said to a farmer. “Do you belong to the Christian family?” “No.” said he, “they live two farms down.” “No, no! I mean are you lost?” “No, I’ve been here thirty years.” “I mean are you ready for Judgment Day?” “When is it?” “It could be today or tomorrow.” “Well, when you find out for sure when it is, you let me know. My wife will probably want to go both days.”

Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip was from the town of Bethsaida.
This calling takes place in Bethany. Philip had come to Bethany to listen to John the Baptist. Philip found Nathanael and told him. What is Philip’s first reaction – he finds Nathanael. “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Philip places a high priority on reaching the lost. It is like one beggar sharing a piece of bread with another beggar. In modern terms it is like one woman who finds a sale and calls her friends to announce the bargains she has found. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

The Bible portrays Philip as wrestling with his faith but at the same time being faithful to share his faith. Philip is found five times in the Gospel of John. The first time is at his calling by Jesus. The second is when he introduces Nathanael to Jesus. The third is at the feeding of the 5,000, when Jesus asked Philip where they can buy enough bread to feed this crowd. For Philip it wasn’t a question of where! “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Sometimes our faith isn’t strong enough to meet the challenge. The fourth time is when Philip again introduces someone to Christ. Some Greeks who are God fearing people want to meet Jesus. They come to Philip and Philip introduces them. The 5th, and last time is when Philip wants to see his Heavenly Father.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of effective churches is the high priority on reaching unchurched people in their communities. We find that among younger people that they have rejected the institution of the Church but have not rejected God. When a survey was conducted among the unchurched they found seven responses. Some you would expect to hear, some you wouldn’t.

There is no value in attending. The unchurched felt like they could connect with God as easily on the golf course as they could in worship. They do not see the value in collective worship other than doing penitence. It is something like having to endure hell before we get to heaven. God is everywhere so why go to Church?
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” There is great power in the assembled people of God. Never underestimate the Holy Spirit.

Churches have too many problems. The reputation of the Church is in shambles.
It is believed that Churches are filled with inflexible, hypocritical, judgmental and sometimes even plain mean people.

I don’t have the time. Time has replaced money as a currency in the church. Rather than asking how much will it cost, people are more likely to ask, how long will this take. Sundays are for many, the only day to play.

I’m simply not interested. They just don’t care.

Churches ask for money too much. Some feel that churches are more interested in their wallets than in people. There was a lady who attended on Stewardship Sunday and was offended. Money is important to the issue of faith, because money is important to us.

Church services are usually boring or irrelevant. The Church is undergoing a change. Most worship services have been stuck in the 50’s and unwilling to change. Churches that are growing are appealing to all generations.

I don’t believe in God. Less than 12% feel that there is no God.

If effective evangelism happens, it has to begin and end with the local church. A story is told of the Lord’s return to heaven after his resurrection. All the angels gathered for the gala celebration. During the festivities, as the story goes, the angels gathered around God’s Son to hear about his many experiences on earth.
Christ told of how he healed the sick, raised the dead, and ministered miracles to the multitudes. Then, he told them the story of how he died on the cross that man might be free from sin. He also explained how he rose again from the dead on the third day. As he finished, all heaven was silent.

Suddenly one of the angels declared, “Lord, it’s our turn to participate. Let us now go to earth and tell the masses of your love and of what you’ve done for them.” The Lord quietly shook his head and answered, “No, that will not be possible.” All of the angels were puzzled, and another inquired, “How, then, are you going to send this message to everyone on earth?” In a confident tone, the Master answered, “I have left this responsibility in the hands of eleven friends.” With a questioning look, another angel quickly responded, “But, Lord, what if they fail?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plan.”

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”