Pastor's Blog
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September 9, 2013, 4:01 PM

They Are Only Going To Slit-My-Throat

In less than 41-hours, I will literally be having my throat slit.  I am having an operation to remove the rest of my thyroid gland.  I had this same surgery about four-years ago due to pre-cancerous tumors growing on one-half of my thyroid.  They removed the diseased half, but left the other half thinking it might function properly and produce the needed hormones.  They were wrong.  The remaining half of my thyroid does not function.  However, it did manage to develop the same type of pre-cancerous growths as I had previously.  A few days ago, I reviewed the photos we took after my first thyroid surgery.  It was a bit more gruesome than I remembered! 

While the surgeon and medical staff try to downplay any risks, because of my previous experience with this, I am keenly aware of the things that could potentially go wrong.  Because they must move the vocal chords in order to get to the thyroid gland, there is a very real danger of damaging my vocal chords.  Because of the disturbance and bruising that will occur, I will likely be unable to speak normally for 4-6 weeks.  There is a slight chance of permanent damage.  Although my voice has been the focus of my attention, I was informed of a much more ominous concern by the medical staff… an issue I had never even heard of!  They will be monitoring me very closely because they believe this other scenario is more likely to occur. 

When I pause to realize I am letting a fellow I barely know slice my throat…and even paying him to do it…I am exercising a HUGE amount of faith!  I am literally placing my life in his hands!  What if he sneezes while making the incision?  I could drive myself crazy with “what if” scenarios!  However, because of the recommendation of other doctors who I trust, as well as the training he has had, I am willing to trust this surgeon.  I am trusting him with my life.  How much faith do your friends have in you?  How convincing is your life that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the answer to life’s deepest needs?  When was the last time you led anyone into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?   If it has been a while, what does that say about your faith in Christ?  What does it say about your concern (or lack of concern) about the spiritual needs of others?   The most important thing we can do in life is share the hope of Christ with others.  As someone has aptly stated, “The Christ we do not share, we do not keep.”

If something unforseen or unexpected happens during my surgery, I am ready for eternity.  If everything goes exactly as it is suppose to, I am prepared to begin recovery and reconsecrate myself to sharing Christ with those I meet!

September 3, 2013, 11:53 AM

The EXACT OPPOSITE of What I Prayed For!

This past Friday, I made a trip to southeastern Missouri on my motorcycle.  Normally, it takes 4.5-5 hours to make the 300+ mile trip.  South-central Illinois and eastern Missouri are currently in a time of extended dryness (no recent rains and none in the forecast) and excessive heat (it was 97-degrees as I rode to Missouri on Friday).  The trip was going relatively well until I neared St. Louis.  Suddenly I realized there were some ominous clouds blocking the glaring heat of the sun.  I had been praying most of the trip, asking God to work in the lives of a host of people.  However, my praying switched when I recognized the clouds looked all the world like storm clouds.  I was praying for all I was worth that the Lord would keep me dry and NOT let me get caught in a rain storm.   As I passed through Arnold, Missouri, on I-55, I began seeing north-bound vehicles approaching with their windshield wipers on.  Not good!  In a matter of minutes, the rain began to fall.  Soon, I was riding through a blinding rainstorm, unable to see more than fifty-feet ahead of my motorcycle.  I was able to pull beneath an overpass and try to wipe my face, regroup, and wait the storm out.  The rain seemed to let-up, so since I was already soaked-to-the-skin, I took off again.  I had not gone 1/4 of a mile until the rains intensified to a point of blinding me.  It was as if someone had a water hose and was spraying water in my face!  I found another overpass, pulled over, and waited there for 20-minutes or more as semis and other vehicles drove by just a few feet from me, spraying me with the fresh rain from the roadway.  It was during this stay on the side of the road that I phoned Peggy, my wife.  She asked if I had my rain suit with me.  I reminded her that in the midst of a multi-state drought, the last thing I was thinking of was RAIN!  No, I did not have my rain suit!  I was finally able to depart from beneath the overpass and the rain stopped a mile or two down the road.  However, I was miserable.  I HATE being in wet clothes!

To make matters worse, Saturday night as I was riding my motorcycle back home, I saw lots of lightning as I approached the St. Louis area.  I once again began praying for the Lord to please keep me dry and not let me get into another rain storm!  I watched the lightning for nearly an hour as I rode along.  I actually thought I might be able to bypass the storm.  The high winds which were part of the storm nearly blew me off the road!  Less than one-mile east of Collinsville, Illinois, in the dark of night, the rains began and they came in bucket-loads!  I could not see beyond the windshield of my motorcycle!  I knew I had to get off the highway lest I wreck or get run over by someone.  I exited the first chance I got, even though I could barely see the white-line at the edge of the road.  I was soaked-to-the-skin once again, but this time, due to the high winds and the darkness of night, I was cold.  As the rains were coming down in sheets, I pulled onto the sidewalk of a fitness center and tried to wait-out the rains.  It eventually eased-up and I got on the road once again.   The round-trip should have taken nine-hours, but took me 14-hours due to the weather. 

When I saw the potential rain, I prayed diligently for the Lord to NOT let it rain!  He allowed the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I prayed for!   I spent quite a bit of my trip asking God why that happened.  There were several things He spoke to my heart in response to my asking Him "why."  First, He reminded me of the multitudes of people who were praying FOR rain.  That region's need for rain was far greater than my need to stay dry.  He also reminded me my comfort should NEVER take precedence over the genuine needs of others.  Ouch!  The Lord pointed-out how selfish my praying was.  All I was really concerned with was that I wanted to stay dry.  I had to ask His forgiveness for that.  He also taught me the importance of ALWAYS carrying my rain suit on the motorcycle with me, even during droughts and times of intense heat.  I must "live ready" for the unexpected storms...just like we must live our daily lives ready for the unexpected. 

I thank God for keeping me safe in the midst of some very dangerous travels over the weekend.  I praise Him for using those harrowing experiences to teach me some valuable lessons.  I also thank Him for the people who regularly pray for me because I am confident their prayers helped me through the wet, wild ride I had this past weekend.  Although I still HATE to be wet, I have learned a lesson I will not soon forget!

August 21, 2013, 9:02 AM

Eliptical Devotions

Throughout my youth, I was actively involved in athletics.  I played baseball, basketball, and ran track.  I was involved in the marching band and used my athletic skills during my years in our high school Drama Club.  I played on our church softball and volleyball teams during a couple of our pastorates, but that was years ago. 

Like so many others have discovered, I have found the older I get, the OLDER I get!  High blood pressure, borderline diabetes, weight gain, and other maladies have become part of my life.  To combat these, and to avoid taking any more medication than absolutely necessary, about three-years ago while in southwest Florida, I began walking 3-4 miles each morning.  I felt much better and my health improved.  With the multitude of changes in our lives when we moved to central Illinois in July 2012, I never got back into walking here.  The lack of exercise became very evident to me. 

While visiting my aunt in southeast Texas last month, Peggy tried my aunt’s eliptical exercise machine and announced, “We need to get one of these!”  My first time ever on an eliptical machine was when Peggy had me try it out in the store.  I am now into my third week of spending 20-minutes each morning, six-days per week, working out on the eliptical. The first day was excruciatingly difficult.  I had planned to use the workout time to pray because that is what I did when I walked in Florida.  That did not happen.  Actually, I did pray, but it was more like, “Lord, please help me!”    That first workout was one of the longest twenty-minutes of my life!  By sheer determination, I made it through that twenty-minute workout.  When I told Peggy how slow the time passed and how difficult it was, she suggested I watch a Gaither music video while I worked out.  The second day, Bill Gaither and I worked out together and the twenty-minutes went by very quickly!  Each morning, I have “eliptical devotions” with a Gaither video.  Some mornings it is still tough to get myself onto the eliptical machine, but thanks to the videos, the time passes quickly.  There have been several mornings when God has come near and blessed me through those videos, even though I was physically stretched and sweating profusely.  Both my physical body and my soul are being helped as I begin the day.  Perhaps this is an example of what the apostle Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 10:31 when he wrote, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  Whatever you do today, do it for the honor and praise of the Lord!

August 19, 2013, 7:05 PM


Statistics tell us that 3,500-4,000 churches permanently close their doors each year in America.  That is approximately TEN CHURCHES PER DAY every day, all year long!  As Peggy and I rode our motorcycle to southeast Texas and back last month, we passed a number of unoccupied church buildings, further proof of the frightening statistical fact I just cited.  Do we no longer need those churches?  Is the spiritual life of our society so ideal we can do without church?  Why are churches closing at a rate of ten-per-day? 

There are a host of reasons why churches are closing:  the failure to relevantly minister to their communities; churches becoming in-grown, caring only for themselves; the loss of true worship, replacing it with an “empty, religious ritual”; prayerlessness; loss of spiritual vision; so intently remembering the past, they see no future; failure to reach to the unchurched; and apathy.  These are just a few reasons.

What may be the most senseless and tragic of church closings is when a congregation comprised of strong, loving Christians and wonderful, friendly, morally upright people closes due to neglect.  While there may be a recorded membership of 325, only 50-people attend worship on any given Sunday.  There may be well in excess of 200-individuals who call the church their “home church,” but only a few dozen ever attend.  By our attendance, we vote to keep the church doors open!  Our absence votes to make our church one of the ten-per-day that permanently close.  Our involvement and faithful financial support declares our love for our local church!  Our inactivity and stinginess toward the local church reveals our preference for the church to close. 

If everyone followed YOUR example, would your local church be thriving…or would it be part of the ten-per-day?

August 14, 2013, 9:56 PM

You Cannot Stand Still

In 1772, John Wesley said, “Strongly exhort the believers everywhere to ‘go on to perfection’; otherwise they cannot keep what they have.”  This was Wesley’s clear call for Christians to go on to a deeper heart cleansing by the Holy Spirit.  It was a call to continue growing in Christ.  Author Kenneth Collins cites this quote from John Wesley then states, “Not to go forward (spiritually), then, is not to retain the grace already received, but actually to go backward.  There is no standing still.” 

When I read Wesley’s words and Collins' comments, I wanted to stand to my feet and shout, “YES!”  I have watched countless individuals who have taken an attitude which declared, “I have grown spiritually enough.”  Their presumption was based on a variety of ideas: their years living as a Christian; the tenure of their church attendance; a comparison of what they once were and what they presently were; their years of service to the church; or maybe simply age.  The apostle Paul shared that with all his religious pedigree, he counted it as nothing and pressed onward to know Christ more fully (Philippians 3:12-14).  John Wesley’s words are haunting…if we do not continue to grow spiritually, we will lose the spiritual relationship with God that we have!  There can be no “standing still” spiritually.  Either we are growing and moving forward or we are falling backward. 

The mandatory nature of on-going spiritual growth was impressed upon me while I was a young college student.  I came home from college for a visit and my grandmother excitedly told me the Lord had shown her something brand new in her devotions.  With great enthusiam and joy, she shared the new insight the Lord had given her.  Grandma was in her mid-80s at the time and was legally blind.  Her daily devotions involved her reading from a large print Bible under a very bright light because she was unable to read otherwise.  Grandma could only read a brief time because of the strain it placed on her eyes.  The memory is still vivid of Grandma sitting back in her chair, rubbing her eyes, resting a few minutes, then returning to God’s Word.  That day when she so excitedly shared the new Biblical Truth she had discovered, the strongest message the Lord spoke to my heart was, “Follow her example. Never stop growing spiritually!” 

Are you “growing” or “dying” spiritually?  Your choices and response make the difference.  You cannot “stand still.”  

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