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Prayer: Move from Dissatisfaction to Confidence

Do You Want to Move from Dissatisfaction to Confidence?

If you’re like most Christians, your biggest regret in your spiritual growth is your personal prayer life. You know how to pray; you know it’s talking with the Lord in thankfulness and petition. You do spend some time praying, even every day, but you’re not satisfied with the time or content. What steps would move you from being dissatisfied to being confident? Your goal is to please the Lord with your prayer life. What could help you make that transition?

Think about those times when you have sensed God’s presence near and you relished your time in prayer, knowing full well that you connected with the Lord in prayer. Would one of those times be when you’re involved in church worship? You were being helped to communicate with God. Could it be while the pastor (or a church member) led the whole congregation in prayer? During that prayer time, you sensed God near. You put aside your hesitation and doubts and you heard a prayer that connected your desires with the words being spoken by your pastor. You joined in offering prayer for others’ needs and you knew God listened and would answer.

Prayers for the People: from the Heart of a Pastor could be the needed resource to bring you into that sweet communion you sensed when in church worship. This book is a collection of pastoral prayers and includes prayers offered during Sunday morning worship, weddings, funerals, special events, and closes with benedictions. The author was pastor of World Gospel Church, Terre Haute, Indiana, for 19 years. Bill Coker held the conviction that as pastor he knew the needs of the people, so he led in prayer every Sunday. As you read the prayers in this book, you could move from your sense of dissatisfaction to being in God’s presence.

If you are interested in purchasing Prayers for the People, it’s available on www.amazon.com. $13.00 I have sold all my author copies of this book.

God’s Unexpected Love Letter Addressed to You

How do you view the Ten Commandments as recorded in the Bible? (See Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.) In the past, they have been posted on courtroom and schoolroom walls. The Commandments have too often been used like a weapon to persuade youth to obey the rules. People even quote particular commands to gain an advantage in an argument.

Personally, you may have viewed the Ten Commandments as coming from a harsh God who rules the universe with an iron hand. Do you see them as commands, rules, and regulations? Do they strike fear in your heart and mind? Or do you ignore them as an ancient creed for past generations?

If you exchanged commandments for “words,” would you consider God’s words as something to help you understand Him better? Could these words even move you to understand yourself better in God’s eyes?

Could you see the Ten Commandments not as rules but as words of endearment?

That’s the position Bill Coker takes in his book Words of Endearment: the Ten Commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love.

The book is written by Bill Coker, Sr., former professor of Bible at Asbury College and former pastor of World Gospel Church in Indiana. With an historic context and careful biblical word study, Bill set his purpose in these 12 chapters to explain what each word (commandment) meant as God intended. These enlarge our understanding about what God said and why. The book begins with a chapter on the Decalogue and then fleshes out each of the ten words in separate chapters, closing with a message on “Rightly Handling the Word of Truth.”

Words of Endearment could move you from fear to trust, from apprehension to love for God, from ignoring the standard God sets for us to accepting the good life ruled by a good God.

Purchase the book from www.amazon.com or from Bill and Ann Coker: al2.coker@gmail.com with free shipping. Only $12.95 and you could have a new and better perspective on the Ten Commandments, God’s loving words for you.

Waiting yet being productive

I sat in my car in the faculty parking lot, waiting for my husband. I had finished my day job and we’d go home to prepare dinner and do whatever. Often I had to wait for Bill as his office hours at the college were not 9 to 5. I came prepared, loosing a book from the door’s side pocket, and began reading where I’d left off. Being productive while waiting.

That happened years ago. I’m now reading a book by Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage titled The Waiting Room: 60 meditations for finding peace & hope in a health crisis. It’s taken me back to the 24 days when Bill was in Union Hospital, Terre Haute, Indiana, with Legionnaire’s disease.

Bill in physical therapy at Independence Rehab

Lots of time waiting – for doctors to visit, for Bill to receive diagnosis and care, for his release time. I recall one morning when Pastor Dan joined me as we waited for a procedure that didn’t happen. He had given generously of his time and we shared life stories.

Today’s reading quoted that familiar verse Jeremiah 29:11 about God’s plans for His people. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). We tend to make present-day application and don’t consider the context. The people from Jerusalem lived in exile in Babylon. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah to tell the people to be productive during their 70-year wait before returning home. Build houses, grow gardens, marry and have children. And most surprising of all, pray for the prosperity of Babylon.

These days my waiting times look different. Currently I’m waiting for the proof of Bill’s third book, The Scandal of Christmas, four Advent messages. I’ve approved the cover design and illustrations. It’s exciting, but I admit to being anxious about this book being available in time for pre-Advent sales. The first Sunday in Advent is November 28. So how can I make this waiting time productive?

Clean the refrigerator? Tackle the clothes that need ironing? Work on other writing projects? Such as revising my companion book for The Pilgrim’s Progress, compiling my devotions for a new publication, looking over Bill’s transcripts, or reading.

I’m also waiting on Bill, not in the sense that I’m expecting him to do something. It’s like putting aside my expectations and being available for what new changes he makes. What will he forget and what will he want us to do today? He likes to take rides in the country; so will I wait on what I want to do and accommodate his wishes? How do I judge which waiting is more productive?

Valued Interruptions

The other day Paul, our son-in-law, said he didn’t want to interrupt me while I was reading my Bible. He’s considerate that way. But, come to think of it, my life has been full of interruptions, mostly good, some not so.

Every young mother can relate to interruptions by their children. It’s usually while doing some important task (even in the bathroom) or talking on the phone. But children are insistent and want attention “now.” More often than I’d like to admit, my attitude about being interrupted has not been agreeable. Then comes along that unexpected time when a child wants to share her find while playing outside. My window sill in one house displayed a collection of rocks, cones, and seeds. These love gifts from my children started with an interruption.

When I worked as client services director for the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Terre Haute and Brazil, IN, I observed an open door policy. That stimulated interruptions from volunteer counselors needing advice or wanting to share their recent encounter with clients. Most were work-related, but sometimes those interruptions opened up their personal lives. Both of us benefited.

Now the interruptions come from great-grandkids when we have the pleasure of their company. Our granddaughter Anna is committed to bringing the triplets for a visit, at least once a year from Nashville, TN. They want to help, especially in the kitchen. I can do the fixings alone, but to them it’s part of their play. I’m blessed with their interruptions.

Ethan helps prepare chicken curry
Naomi snaps beans for dinner

Levi works alongside motel laborer.

More presently the interruptions come from Bill who likes meals on time. I’ll be typing away on a document or email and Bill stands by the clock and points. It’s noon. It’s six o’clock. When are we going to eat? I want to choose the schedule, but he’s as insistent as our children had been. So I put him off for a few minutes and then head to the kitchen where he stands and observes every move, often taking a utensil off the counter before I’m finished with it. He only wants to help.

So whether it’s from a child, worker, or husband, interruptions can lead to a good relationship – if my attitude remains open and compassionate. Bring on the interruptions.

Missed Invitation

It wasn’t until the end of the day that I realized I had missed attending the graduation party for a high-school senior from our church. Earlier in the day, Bill had even asked if we could go someplace. We went for a drive in the country and enjoyed it. Upon returning home, Paul told me about the graduation events he’d attended. That was when it clicked. I had an invitation, and I had missed the party. I had not put it on my calendar, but had only shoved the postal card invite behind other mail on my desk. It would have been a better use of our Saturday afternoon time, but no. Sending a card of congratulations became my only recourse.

This got me to thinking about other missed opportunities. At Asbury College I forgot to purchase a ticket for a play, The Diary of Anne Frank, put on by drama students. This book is a favorite, so I wanted to see the play. I even walked over to the theater on campus, but it was only to appease myself, eventually to make me feel bad about missing out because of my neglect.

Another story: I was getting ready for an event to start soon when a door-to-door salesman came to our house. Taking time to listen for a while, I finally told him I had to leave for a meeting. After he left, I felt guilty. Not because of putting off his sales pitch, but because I did not use our time together to give a witness about what mattered most to me. I was going to a meeting related to my spiritual growth, and yet I had missed out on an opportunity to talk about Jesus.

The invitation that no one should miss is the call of Christ to follow Him. His invitation is given to all. Listen as I wrap that invitation in the words of Scripture. Jesus did “not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Lately I’m been thinking of and praying for loved ones and friends who need to respond to the call to follow Jesus. And I don’t want to miss out on extending that invitation.

What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals

Looking for something else, I found this article. Isn’t that the way with lost and found? Anyway, I don’t know who wrote this piece, but I do know by the style that neither Bill nor I wrote it. Both of us, however, would agree with the author. So let it stand as anonymous and see what response you have: good or not or in between.

March 29, 2017. #hymns #music

I don’t think we should go back to using hymnals. But I do think there’s value in considering what we lost when, over the course of a relatively short period of time, we gave up hymnals for PowerPoint projection. Not all of us, mind you, but most of us. It’s worth considering because it helpfully shows what we stand to lose when we switch from one media to another, and especially when we do so quickly and without due consideration.

If we were to go back in time twenty or thirty years, we would find that most churches had hymnals. They had hymnals because it was the best way of providing each member of the congregation with a copy of the songs. You’d hear it in every church: “Take out your hymnal and turn to hymn 154…” And then hymnals went the way of the dodo and we began to look instead to words projected on a screen. Here is some of what we lost along the way.

We lost an established body of songs. Hymnals communicated that a church had an established collection of songs. This, in turn, communicated that its songs were vetted carefully and added to its repertoire only after careful consideration. After all, great songs are not written every day and their worth is proven only over time. Therefore, new hymns would be chosen carefully and added to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally. Churches would update their hymnals, and, therefore, their established body of songs, only once every ten or fifteen years.

We lost a deep knowledge of our songs. When we removed the hymnal, we gained the ability to add new songs to our repertoire whenever we encounter one we deem worthy. And we do—we add new songs all the time. As we add new songs with greater regularity, we sing old songs with less frequency. This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts. Few congregations could sing even the greatest hymns without that PowerPoint screen.

We lost the ability to do harmonies. Hymnody grew up at a time when instrumentation took a back seat to the voice. Hymns were most often written so they could be sung a cappella or with minimal instrumentation. For that reason, hymnals almost invariably included the music for both melody and harmonies and congregations learned to sing the parts. The loss of the hymnal and the associated rise of the worship band has reduced our ability to harmonize and, in that way, to sing to the fullest of our abilities. It often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.

We lost the ability to sing skillfully. As congregations have lost their knowledge of their songs, they have lost the ability to sing them well. We tend to compensate for our poorly-sung songs by cranking up the volume of the musical accompaniment. The loss of the voice has given rise to the gain of the amplifier. This leads to our music being dominated by a few instrumentalists and perhaps a pair of miced-up vocalists while the larger congregation plays only a meager role.

We lost the ability to have the songs in our homes. Hymnals usually lived at the church, resting from Monday to Saturday in the little pockets on the back of the pews. But people also bought their own and took them home so the family could have that established body of songs there as well. Families would often sing together as part of their family worship. It is easy to imagine a family singing “It Is Well with My Soul” after eating dinner together, but almost impossible to imagine them singing, “Oceans.”

It is probably too late to go back to the hymnal. I am not at all convinced we ought to. But it is still worth considering what we lost along the way and how congregational singing has been utterly transformed by what may appear to have been a simple and practical switch in the media. That little change from book to screen changed nearly everything.

A New Holiday

Excited to show my daughter-in-law Rhonda the plants in the Conservatory at Garfield Park, we arrived on a Friday afternoon to find out that it was closed. Why? A woman in a parked car told me the reason: closed for Juneteenth, a new holiday. It took me a while to understand what she said, but her knowledge helped us to appreciate what the day was all about. The name is short for June Nineteenth, and some may call it Freedom Day. It commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. Bill and Rhonda had heard about it on their drive to Indiana from Ohio. The Conservatory staff decided to observe it right away.

Today I heard about another named day, though not a federal holiday. June 29, in Christian circles, is known as the Day of the Christian Martyr. This day was established with the traditional date when the apostle Paul was martyred. The Voice of the Martyrs gives several ways to observe this day. An email arrived with the story of a young girl who was “shot to death on her doorstep by Marxist guerrillas because of her witness for Christ.” Her name is Rocio Pino.

How do these two days connect? Both speak for the hard facts of how a nation can hold people in bondage and even take their lives away. Both have the connection of humans being persecuted. Both are about our desire and need for freedom. Both call us to the place of prayer: asking forgiveness, even when we were not those who did the wrong, the evil of taking life, and asking for mercy and justice for those caught in the horrific systems built upon slavery and persecution. I dare to say, like a friend does frequently, that we should also pray for the persecutors, that they would surrender to God and have Him change their hearts and minds.

Distracted or Dedicated

I forgot to turn on Bill’s microphone from the sound booth at church.

The sound techs needed some relief occasionally, so I took the training. I liked being above the crowd, looking down from my perch, seeing everyone enter and some go out and return during the service. But that was the very reason I forgot to mike Bill. I am easily distracted.

I would spy a friend, and while I did not speak to her, I watched her find a seat and greet her pew partner. My eyes (and my mind) had wondered from the switchboard and I forgot my task. But not for long. I switched on the sound for Bill’s mike and started the recorder.

That job didn’t last long, understandably, for they wanted someone who paid attention.

My distractions take another form these days. Two years ago I still had a flip phone and my family wanted me to get a smart phone. They teased that I had a dumb phone. My answer: It’s a phone. I don’t need all the extra components. I finally gave in, yet I bought an Android. And I like what I can do with it, especially texting, the one thing my family most wanted me to use.

Now this cell phone has provided several nice distractions. While eating lunch, we listen to music such as the Gaithers, Hauser, Andrew Peterson, and André Rieu. Even while getting the spelling right, I got distracted and listened to Michael Ball sing “Love Changes Everything.” Guess what popped up next? A message by Joseph Prince: “Feeling Distracted, Depressed, or Burnt Out?” Perhaps another time. I’m not depressed or burnt out. Only distracted too much, too often.

Why should these distractions bother me? They eat up the time that should be dedicated to more productive work. Marketing is on my “to do” list today. It’s three o’clock and I’ve not even opened those files. I am, however, writing this blog post, overdue, for this is only my second post for the month of May.

I’ve been told about some programs (apps) that could keep me from turning on any social media site. That would eliminate distractions while working on needed projects, but I use Facebook and emails to connect with people re: marketing and publishing. So I’m back to that ugly word “discipline.” It’s a matter of being dedicated to the best even when I enjoy something good. So there. I’ve confessed, but I have to save myself from being distracted next time.

Whatever It Takes

Pilgrim and Evangelist

During our early years of ministry we lived in Mississippi near my husband’s uncle, who was also a pastor. Uncle Bud never served large churches but sometimes joked that he kept other pastors from serving small churches. Those were special years with Uncle Bud and Aunt Roberta mentoring both Bill and me.

   When Uncle Bud admonished one of his sons about the unhealthy practice of tobacco, that son responded by pointing out his father’s use of coffee. From that day on, Uncle Bud did not allow even this harmless habit to be a stumbling block for his son who needed to come to faith. His example made a lasting impression on me.

   Like the church at Corinth, we need to heed Paul’s warning and be concerned about our weaker members. “Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). Not all habits and practices are sin, but they may get in the way of someone coming to Christ or growing in their faith.

    I have to ask myself if I will do whatever it takes to be a good example before others, especially family members. What habits or practices are holding others back from making a commitment to follow Jesus? Can I be honest enough to cite errors in my way of thinking and doing? It’s not a burden to carry but an honor to be a witness to those who need to see Jesus in me.

    One son asked how I got to be a legalist. That tells me something about how my actions reflect my faulty witness. It’s a starting place for change. I invite you to give me examples of legalism in my life’s practices. I want to be faithful to the calling of Christ on my life and not hinder others.  

   And how about you? Let’s not hold onto freedom too tightly.

Marketing’s Rewards

This may go against stats on Amazon or the finance report of sales. But the best part of marketing for me has been the rewards found in contacts and notes of appreciation. I’ll share some of those a few lines later. For now, I want to post two dates.

Bill’s first ever book, Words of Endearment: the Ten Commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love, has a publication date of December 16, 2020. Bill’s second book, Prayers for the People: from the Heart of a Pastor, appeared on Amazon yesterday with a publication date of April 28, 2021. That’s publishing two books in four-and-a-half months. Unusual!

Each book was self-published; we paid for publication. Sermon to Book published Words. Prayers had EABooks Publishing. I appreciate both systems, best suited for each book.

I’ve worked on the collection of pastoral prayers for the longest because I would look through Bill’s notebooks and type a prayer or two, then return to other writing projects. Therefore, the book of prayers extended over several years without being ready for publication. Then Jim Watkins, acquisition editor for EABooks, asked if I had a book ready. I first thought of Bill’s Advent sermons, but the timing didn’t work out. Then I looked at the collection of prayers, and knew it would not take much to get it ready. Four months later we have a book for sale.

That brings me back to the subject of marketing. With self-publishing, the main sales are from Amazon and from the author copies I buy and sell. For these four months I’ve gone to the post office at least once a week with packages of books to mail. Then the rewards come in, and I’m not speaking of checks and PayPal. Read here a few of our rewards:

Words of Endearment has really stretched the Ten Commandments for me. My husband died in 2019. With God’s help, I am learning to go on. Now your book has helped me.”

“I can hear Bill’s voice speak the words.”

“We are looking forward to sitting under Pastor Bill’s teaching once again as we read this book.”

“Bill, God used you in a mighty way on a men’s Emmaus Walk. Your words totally changed my husband’s life. We are so excited to read your book.”

“I look forward to discovering what Bill has written in his book. The title already provides a life-giving ponder.”

“I plan to read Bill’s book slowly so I can take it all in.”

“Thank you for the deep study of the Ten Commandments.”

“Thanks for contacting me. Bill was always such a joy to listen to – the power of conviction!”

“Bill may not be able to preach like he used to, but his ministry to touch lives is continuing.”

”Pastor Bill, thank you for researching and preaching it. Ann, thank you for putting it into a book.”

“We look forward to spending time with the Lord and the Words of Endearment.

“Seeing my adult children’s response to the book blessed me so very much.”

“We are excited to share a few copies of Bill’s book with others and to know they will be as blessed as we are with this gift of God’s Word made clear.”

From the Asbury University Alumni officer: “Thank you for sending us the beautiful book of sermons. We are glad to add it to our display for the encouragement of our alums and guests. We did share them with our Archives department and our gift officers.”