Freedom!

Written by cycleguy on January 29th, 2015

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This week begins the “meat and potatoes” of the year long series on Freedom! I start preaching in Galatians. This week is actually an introduction and overview of the entire 6 chapters. All of it focused around slavery, bondage, and freedom.

The message of Galatians-the message we carry-is not one of “we are for this” or “we are against this.” Our message is the Good News of Jesus Christ offered to all sinners.

Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of liberty, the Christian’s declaration of independence.

Martin Luther called it “my own book,” not because he wrote it, but because it was so important to his coming to understand the Christian gospel. By studying the book, he came away from his Roman Catholic teaching of salvation by works and came head on into God’s plan of salvation by grace through faith.

Starting last September I have been reading Galatians through Colossians each week. Ironically this week I was back to reading in Galatians. There is nothing like relevance to make reading come to life.

This week is an overview of the book-admittedly not the most exciting of subjects. However, I honestly believe when the truth of the Gospel hits people it changes us.

  1. It changes our relationship with God.
  2. It changes our relationship with our teachers.  See I John 4:1
  3. It changes our relationship with each others.

In February 1989, the East German border guards at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin shot to death a man trying to go escape from the East to the West. But on November 9 of that same year, after dividing far more than one city for over 28 years, the Berlin Wall fell. Cranes and bulldozers finished the job over the next few months. Walls fall. Slavery to the Law falls. Freedom is experienced when the wall-building Law is overcome by the magnificence of God’s grace.

If you have a few moments this weekend, would you mind praying for me and the church? Thanks.

My shout out and thanks to Chuck Swindoll for the three changes which happen.

 

Practices

Written by cycleguy on January 28th, 2015

I recently read an article entitled “12 Practices of Highly Successful Pastors Who Love People.” WAIT! DON’T LEAVE YET! It made some good points. One quote it used was:

The best thing about ministry is the people. The worst thing about the ministry is the people. Unknown

I would almost have to concur. Because ministry is full of people-the good, the bad, and the ugly-it will always be at their whim. I shouldn’t say always. The man who longs for peoples’ approval will be shot/shot at often. The man who chooses to follow God’s leading will be shot/shot at but has something different: protection.

I also realize most…almost all…of my readers are not pastors. So I thought I would take a few of the practices and apply them to the “everyday Joe” who does their thing on a daily basis.

1. You can’t fake it. You either love people or you don’t. They will know it. So will you.

2. You will pray for people early and often. None of this “I’ll pray for you” and then not. While I fall down in this area way too often, there is a young lady visiting in Canada right now whom I promised to pray for every day. There is a friend visiting relatives in San Diego who is prayed for every day.

3. You look for opportunities to serve. We are trying to harvest a culture of service here.

4. You give people hope. Not false hope, but real hope. Don’t be all gloom and doom.

5. You are accessible. It isn’t easy being someone who loves/cares, but it is worth it.

There are more, but I don’t want this to go too long. I’d like to encourage you to read the original article and draw your own conclusions. And by the way, don’t be fooled by what you have always termed “successful.” Our view is sometimes skewed.

Can you add any practices to this list? Which one did like the most (from this one or the original)?

 

Truthfulness

Written by cycleguy on January 27th, 2015

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One of the hardest things (least I think so) is to hear the truth about yourself. Especially if it particularly not on the “good side.”

No husband or wife likes to hear he/she is failing their mate.

No parent likes to hear they are “the reason for their child’s misbehavior.”  (Although granted that is sometimes a cop out).

No pastor likes to hear he bombed on Sunday or he is not connecting with the people.

No boss likes to hear he does not have the respect of his coworkers.

The list goes on and on. Oh yeah…no church likes to hear it is failing in its mission. Transparency is hard. That is why the statement credited to Ghandi is so difficult to hear:

I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

No matter if said years ago or just yesterday, those are not easy words. I know some people who would say the same thing. And maybe…maybe…that is not all bad. As Bobby points out: “They matter because they tell us how we are representing God and communicating His message.” (p.37). I can’t disagree with that. How are we ever going to know how well we are representing Jesus if no one is honest with us? As Bobby also states: “Plainly stated, some people resist Christ because…well, they know some Christians.” (p.39) (That is called a zinger).

This raises a great talking point and is also a good stopping point. Do you have someone who will be honest with you about your walk? Do you agree with Ghandi and why?

There is so much in this chapter that I have decided to do Chapter 2-Take 2 next week.

 

Plunge

Written by cycleguy on January 26th, 2015

The sanity of our youth pastor, Ryan, has been called into question before…by me. Now I have no doubt.

Sunday after our second worship a group of us took off for the church camp we send our kids to, Hilltop Christian Camp, between Nashville and Columbus. No, that is not Nashville, TN and Columbus, OH. :) Indiana people. Indiana. This past year we sent close to 20 students and numerous faculty members (as well as some summer workers) to Hilltop. The church makes it a priority to help any and all who need help in experiencing what we believe can be a life-changing week during the summer. Even if they are not regular members of the youth program, we help. If they need/want it.

The Polar Plunge was a fund-raising event to help offset the cost of running the camp. Hilltop, like most church camps, runs on a shoestring budget and is dependent on donations from churches and individuals. The Polar Plunge was designed to help hold costs down. Their only “requirement” was to raise $300. We had two from OVCF raise money to participate. Tiffany has been a lifeguard the past few summers and Ryan was a dean of a Wilderness Week this past summer. He will do the same this summer.

Last year it was so cold they had to use chainsaws to take out blocks of ice. This year the water was cold but with our recent temps in the 30s and 40s there was only a thin film of ice. Still cold but not as bad. A total of about 13 (I failed to count) braved the cold water to take the plunge. The worse part, in my mind, was not the cold water. It was the pond (and all that goes with one) they “plunged” into. Ryan said the initial plunge numbed him, then it wasn’t so bad…until he got out.

A good amount of money was raised for Hilltop. No one was a frozen popsicle. And I now have a new description for Ryan

CERTIFIABLE

I’m actually proud of Ryan’s willingness to help the camp. Plenty of people from OVCF pledged money for him to do it. And I got to witness taking “nuts’ to a whole new level. :P

Have you ever done a Polar Plunge? Seen one? Dreamed of doing one?

 

Existence

Written by cycleguy on January 25th, 2015

“Erased from existence.” That’s one of the lines from Back to the Future when Doc Brown sees the photograph of Marty’s brother & sister disappearing.

Some people wonder why they exist at all. Hopelessness zooms in on them and a feeling of exasperation and desperation takes over. But there is also another way to look at this idea of existence, one which I have had to grapple with.

WHY DOES THE CHURCH EXIST?

Sunday I used 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21 when I talked about how grace comes from me. Verse 17 is the starting point: I am a new man in Christ. It is absolutely essential to see that as the starting point not the end. But Paul continues by talking about “as we have been reconciled God has also given us the ministry of reconciliation.” That begs the question: why does the church exist? I came up with a few ideas:

We don’t exist to make people happy. Talk about an impossible task!

We don’t exist to push for social and political change. It is not wrong to be involved in helping stomp out the drug trade or sex trafficking, but they are by-products of our faith.

We don’t exist to be inoffensive, upbeat, and inclusive of all beliefs and people. Yes, our doors ought to be open, but we don’t exist to give people a safe place to come for false hope.

We don’t exist to defend a doctrinal position. Having a belief system is important, but we don’t exist to be the last bastion of truth.

So…why do we exist? We are, according to Paul, called to be agents of reconciliation. The message of God’s love was never meant to be kept to ourselves. The reason I believe we exist is left out for a reason.

Why do you think the church exists?

 

Extension

Written by cycleguy on January 22nd, 2015

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It is easy to get jaded. We all know that. Take sports…professional especially. This past year was a bad one for all sports. Allegations of rape, cheating, spousal abuse, child abuse, drugs, arrogance, adulterous affairs, “coming out” and disunity are but a few. It is even worse when it involves someone in our community or someone we know.

It is especially hard to accept when the person calls themselves a follower of Christ and “blows it” big time. We sometimes forget they put their pants on the same way we all do. We sometimes forget they have feet of clay. We ought to be yelling, “Pedestal come down!”

Reality stinks sometimes. But even then those who fall require grace. The harsh truth is those of us who have received grace are to give grace as well. Years ago I heard someone say this:

Before it can happen through me it must happen to me.

No clue who said it, but it translates to this: Before I can show grace to others, grace must happen in me. Every Christ-follower has had experience with grace. We are saved by it. We are kept by it. But that doesn’t make life any easier. In Romans 6 Paul says some pretty straight on things. For example, in verse 16 he tells us how we live depends on the master we choose. J.B. Phillips puts it: “You belong to the power which you choose to obey.” Grace has freed us to obey Christ.

As I have been shown grace, I need to show grace. Sort of like if I have been forgiven, I need to forgive. (Matthew 18)

Sunday’s message is on extending grace to others. I’d like to encourage you to do so, just as I will be doing in the message. Appreciate your prayers.

 

Unbroken

Written by cycleguy on January 21st, 2015

Right off the bat!!! THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS MOVIE about a man who came to Christ and forgave his captors. That literally did happen but don’t go to this movie looking for that scenario. You know…the happily ever after kind.

Second right off the bat. Angelina Jolie is the director and man, has she taken the hits from “Christians” because she did not include said conversion. She does not and did not deserve the criticism.

Okay…now the review.

Unbroken, if you don’t already know, is the story of Louie Zamperini’s experience in the prison camps of Japan. The movie open with a really brief snippet into his “criminal” bent as a child until his brother saw him run. He trained and became a track star, eventually finding himself competing in the 1936 Olympics. There is a far better introduction to his life here. Eventually Louie enlisted in the Army Air Corps and while flying a bombing mission his aircraft, Superman, was badly damaged. With Superman no longer flight-worthy, he was transferred to Hawaii to await further orders. It was while on a search mission that mechanical failures caused the plane to crash land in the ocean. Of the 11 crew members, 3 survived. After being adrift on the ocean-surviving starvation, shark attacks, and a storm-they were taken captive by the Japanese.

The bulk of the movie is spent with Louie enduring unmentionable prison conditions and torture. I will not spoil it for you by telling you about it. I will spoil it by telling you I shed some tears at the end. ‘Nuff said.

You should see this film. Ms. Jolie, IMHO, did an excellent job capturing what she wanted to capture-Louie Zamperini’s prison camp experience. The “Christian” critics have failed to mention the blurbs at the end of the movie which do mention his serious bout with PTSD, his conversion, and his subsequent visits to Japan to forgive his captors.  Make sure you see the blurbs. This is not a film for young children. Prison camp is not Hogan’s Heroes. There are a few swear words, but nothing you probably don’t hear on a daily basis.  (I heard more from the man behind me than in the movie). For the full and complete story you may want to read Laura Hillenbrand’s book, the one the movie was based on.

 

Cross

Written by cycleguy on January 20th, 2015

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We hear a lot of talk about “what the world needs now is love, sweet love.” And I would not be one to argue against the need for love. But if our faith is only a fluffy, make-them-feel-good-about-themselves it is missing something. Except for religions which preach things like jihad, the most basic idea is that of love. Unfortunately then, the result is a feel-good religion devoid of any bite and substance.

What separates Christianity  from other religions is the cross-the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Nitty- gritty? That is the core of our faith. It is a non-negotiable. As Bobby says, “It is what makes us who we are. It’s what makes us Christians ‘Christian.'”  If I don’t believe in the cross, why do I stand up on Sunday? Why do I get up every morning? Why do I offer hope to those experiencing death?

Believing in the cross and its power to forgive, separates us from the religious gobbledygook so many try to pass off as “gospel.” Take away the cross and there is no dividing wall between Christianity and all the other religions. We fall victim to what is called religious pluralism. You know…all roads lead to the same place.

The cross stands alone. Sort of like some Man did over 2000 years ago. And I have this sneaking suspicion that while He is standing alone He won’t share His glory with anyone else.

This is my second installment in my discussion of this book. It is not too late to join in.

 

Shock

Written by cycleguy on January 19th, 2015

I had planned on another post-a review of Unbroken-but I am pressed to write on something else…possibly something you may have gone through.

Sunday afternoon, about 1:30, two young people-one a 7th grader and one a Junior in High school, an uncle and his nephew-fell through 3″ of ice and drowned in a quarry in our area. They were both well-liked by their classmates and their teachers. There is more to the story which I am not telling-not bad-but superfluous to this post.

I received a text and a call last night (Sunday) asking if Ryan and I would be available to come to the school to help kids process what has happened. I spent from 7:30-1:40 at the school talking one-on-one, several times with a handful of students, and a couple times with up to 20 students. It was a tiring day, but one that I hope was helpful to the students. Several other pastors and counselors were there as well.

One of the hardest things for these young people to grasp is the brevity of life. At their age, they expect to “live forever.” They know they are going to die, but not quite yet. When a person hits my age (62) people are digging the hole for me. :) But at 13-16 they see their whole life in front of them. How quickly it is snuffed out. I’ve been involved in situations similar to this and can honestly say they will get through it. Time does heal the wound. They will move on with their life. They will see the boys’ faces again in memories, pictures, and activities they used to do together.

But life will move on. It is awful young to learn such a tough lesson but it can also serve to teach them some even greater ones. I’d like to ask you to pray for the families of Eddie & Dominick. The family wound will continue even longer since the father of one of the boys was present. Thanks.

How can I pray for you today?

 

Leverage

Written by cycleguy on January 18th, 2015

When used as a verb leverage means “to gain an advantage through the use of a tool.” The sort of leverage I am talking about isn’t about using a tool, unless you consider badgering and legalism a tool (which I do).

Liberty is freedom. Legalism is bondage.

How does it work? Easy. Watch Jesus as He confronts the religious leaders of His day who used the rigid keeping of the Law as a leverage against the people. You want to know why they got miffed at Jesus? Just check out how He challenged their power grab using the Law as leverage.

I used to do this (and am ashamed to admit it). For example: tithing. I believe the Bible teaches giving as a way to show grace. But for years I “controlled” people with the threat of withheld blessings if they didn’t tithe. I questioned their commitment to Christ. Shoot, I even questioned their salvation. Stupid…I see it now. But back then it was my leverage. It was my means of control to make sure enough money came in. (I suspect it would have whether I preached tithing or not).

There are other areas of control/leverage pastors/teachers use:

Daily Bible reading

Church attendance- weekly and more when the doors are open

Clothing

Music

Movies/TV

Cards

The list seems endless. Now…on some of those there definitely needs discernment, but people certainly don’t need me to be their “line drawer.”

Don’t let anyone draw your line. Don’t let any person have that type of control. Your thoughts?